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Outdoor air pollution kills 2.18 million Indians annually: Study

IANS | November 30, 2023 03:41 PM

NEW DELHI: Outdoor air pollution from all sources claims 2.18 million lives per year in India, which could potentially be avoided by replacing fossil fuels with clean, renewable energy sources, according to a new modelling study.

The findings published by The BMJ showed that the number of attributable deaths to all sources of ambient air pollution -- the leading environmental health risk factor for illness and death -- were highest across South and East Asia, and highest in China with 2.44 million deaths per year.

The research led by an international team from the US, Germany, Spain found that air pollution from using fossil fuels in industry, power generation, and transportation accounts for 5.1 million (61 per cent) extra deaths a year worldwide.

About 8.3 million deaths worldwide were attributable to fine particles (PM2.5) and ozone (O3) in ambient air, corresponding to 82 per cent of the maximum number of air pollution deaths that could be averted by controlling all anthropogenic emissions.

Most (52 per cent) of deaths were related to common conditions such as ischemic heart disease (30 per cent), stroke (16 per cent), chronic obstructive lung disease (16 per cent) and diabetes (6 per cent).

About 20 per cent were undefined but are likely to be partly linked to high blood pressure and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

These new estimates of fossil fuel-related deaths are larger than most previously reported values suggesting that phasing out fossil fuels might have a greater impact on attributable mortality than previously thought, the researchers said.

The study used data from the Global Burden of Disease 2019 study, NASA satellite-based fine particulate matter and population data, and atmospheric chemistry, aerosol, and relative risk modelling for 2019.

The results showed phasing out fossil fuels would result in the largest absolute reductions in attributable deaths in South, South East and East Asia, amounting to about 3.85 million annually, equivalent to 80-85 per cent of potentially preventable deaths from all anthropogenic sources of ambient air pollution in these regions.

In high-income countries that are largely dependent on fossil energy, about 460, 000 deaths annually could potentially be prevented by a fossil fuel phase out, representing about 90 per cent of the potentially preventable deaths from all anthropogenic sources of ambient air pollution.

In line with the Paris Climate Agreement's goal of climate neutrality by 2050, "the replacement of fossil fuels by clean, renewable energy sources would have tremendous public health and climate co-benefits", said the researchers.

The forthcoming COP28 climate change negotiations in the United Arab Emirates "offer an opportunity to make substantial progress towards phasing out fossil fuels. The health benefits should be high on the agenda", they added.

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