According to a new research, Global Burden of Disease, conducted by the Institute for Health Metrics over 5.5 million people die prematurely each year due to air pollution with over half of those deaths occurring in China and India, two of the world’s fastest-growing economies.
In the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference, held recently in the US capital, scientists have warned that unless more aggressive measures are taken against pollution are adopted, the number of premature deaths will continue to climb in the years ahead.
In 2013, China and India accounted for 55 percent of yearly global deaths from air pollution. Around 1.6 million people died of air pollution in China, while India witnessed around 1.4 million deaths.
According to Michael Brauer, a professor at the University of British Columbia's School of Population and Public Health in Vancouver, Canada, says "Air pollution is the fourth highest risk factor for death globally and by far the leading environmental risk factor for disease”.
According to the research, only high blood pressure, poor diet, and cigarettes have killed more people every year than air pollution. Air pollution ranks behind high blood pressure, diet and smoking as the fourth greatest risk factor for global fatalities.
"Reducing air pollution is an incredibly efficient way to improve the health of a population," says Brauer.
"India needs a three-pronged mitigation approach to address industrial coal burning, open burning for agriculture, and household air pollution sources," says Chandra Venkataraman, professor of Chemical Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, in Mumbai, India. In India, the main culprit has been burning wood, dung and biomass for cooking and heating.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) air quality guidelines, pollution should be restricted to a daily particulate matter of 25 micrograms per cubic meter. In February, Beijing and New Delhi typically see daily levels at or above 300 micrograms per cubic meter (or 1,200 percent) higher than WHO guidelines.
More than 85 percent of the global population lives in areas where the World Health Organization Air Quality Guideline is exceeded.