Report says toxic air pollution to shorten children’s lives by 20 months

Air pollution will shorten the life expectancy of children born today by an average of 20 months and will have the greatest impact in South Asia according to a study published on Wednesday. — AFP  File

At 2.5m, India & China had 50% of world foul air deaths

The life expectancy of a child born today could be reduced by an average of 20 months due to health damage caused by air pollution, researchers say.

The report, analyzing the Global Burden of Disease 2016 data, stated, "When considered separately, exposure to ambient PM2.5 is responsible for just over 1 year, household air pollution is responsible for nearly 9 months, and ozone for less than 1 month of life span lost".

Long-term exposure to indoor and outdoor pollution contributed to almost 5 million deaths globally in 2017, with fatalities resulting from stroke, heart attack, diabetes, lung cancer and chronic lung disease, the analysis found.

Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nigeria, the United States, Russia, Brazil and the Philippines were the others in the list of 10 countries with the highest mortality rates attributed to air pollution.

Toxic air will shorten children's lives by nearly two years and will have the greatest impact in South Asia, according to a special report on global exposure to air pollution and its disease burden, published by the US-based Health Effects Institute. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 75 percent of the global population, or 5.5 billion people, live in areas wherePM2.5 pollution exceeds safe levels.

China and India come up very often in the report and are together responsible for over half the global deaths. "The analysis found that China and India together were responsible for over half of the total global attributable deaths, with each country facing over 1.2 million deaths from all air pollution in 2017", the report said. In India, over 1.2 million people lost their lives due to air pollution in 2017, according to a global report on air pollution released on Wednesday.

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Frank Kelly, a professor of environmental health at King's College in London, said that until recently little data had been available on air pollution challenges in sub-Saharan Africa.

Levels of small particulate air pollution across China were down 12 percent in 2016 compared to 2013 levels.

The study "Global State Air 2019" reported that the life on average of a South Asian child growing up in current high levels of air pollution will be shortened by two years and six months.

Robert O'Keefe, vice-president, Health Effects Institute, acknowledged that India had initiated steps such as the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (an LPG programme), accelerated Bharat Stage VI clean vehicle standards, and the new National Clean Air Programme, but observed that these need to be fully implemented. In the developing world, reliance on solid fuels, such as biomass for cooking and heating, is the main source of indoor pollution.

The problem is particularly pronounced in countries such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, which in the past year have seen cities blanketed in thick clouds of toxic air for days at a time.

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