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March 20, 2023

Air pollution: New study says 39 of the 50 most polluted cities globally are in India

AQLI data finds air pollution is reducing the life expectancy of Indians by five years, cites News Nine.

Tarakeshwar in West Bengal had the cleanest air while Bhiwadi in Rajasthan reported worst air quality

The story

A ‘World Air Quality’ report published by Swiss firm IQAir on Tuesday says that India is the world’s eighth most polluted country in 2022, dropping from its fifth spot from the previous year.

IQAir measures air quality levels based on the concentration of lung-damaging airborne particles known as PM2.5. Its annual survey is widely cited by researchers and government organisations worldwide.

The current index was prepared using data from more than 30,000 air quality monitors in more than 7,300 locations in 131 countries, territories and regions.

What does the study say?

Indian cities on the list with worst air quality included Darbhanga, Asopur, Patna, Ghaziabad, Dharuhera, Chapra, Muzaffarnagar, Greater Noida, Bahadurgarh and Faridabad.

Seven cities in India, Tarakeswar, Digboi, Aladu, Kattupalli, Polampalli, Kharsawan and Muthaiyapuram, were also among the 15 least polluted regional cities in South Asia.

The report said India and Pakistan experienced the worst air quality in the Central and South Asian region, where nearly 60 per cent of the population lives in areas where the concentration of PM2.5 particles is at least seven times higher than WHO’s recommended levels….

…What are the associated health risks?

The levels of the pollutant PM 2.5 in India are usually well above the World Health Organisation’s recommended level of exposure, often over 5 times higher, and this leads to serious respiratory problems for those exposed to it.

Records show that in 2019 over 1.6 million deaths were attributed to poor air quality. The cause of death ranged from strokes, diabetes, lung cancer and myocardial infarctions, all directly or indirectly related to complications resulting from exposure to air pollution.

Also in this year, the State of Global Air 2020 noted that air pollution is now the largest risk factor for death amongst all other forms.

In comparison to other countries, Indians are exposed to an average of 83.2 μg/cubic metre of PM2.5 pollutants compared to cleaner countries which record a relatively tiny figure of just 8μg/cubic metre.

Poor air quality has a drastic effect on the human respiratory system because the small PM 2.5 particulates travel deep into the lung tissue as far as the alveoli. From here they can pass through body tissue and can even enter the heart. Reduced lung capacity, sore throats, coughs, fatigue, lung cancer and headaches are all typical symptoms of exposure to polluted air.

Another study done by the Air Quality Life Index (AQLI), produced by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), says air pollution is reducing the life expectancy of Indians by five years. Even during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global annual average particulate pollution (PM2.5) remained mostly unchanged from 2019 levels.

The study claimed how this impact on life expectancy is comparable to that of smoking, more than three times that of alcohol use and unsafe water, six times that of HIV/AIDS, and 89 times that of conflict and terrorism.

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