Air Pollution Causing People to Die Prematurely

IAS Prelims 2023

According to the report, issued by two institutes: the Health Effects Institute, a Boston research institute focused on the health effects of air pollution, and the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, a population health research centre in Seattle,  India has registered an alarming increase of nearly 50% in premature deaths from particulate matter between 1990 and 2015.

Main findings of Report:

India’s rapidly worsening air pollution is now surpassing China’s as the deadliest in the world. The number of premature deaths in China caused by dangerous air particles, known as PM2.5, has stabilised globally in recent years but has risen sharply in India.

As air pollution worsened in parts of the world, including South Asia, it improved in the U.S. and Europe, crediting policies to curb emissions, among other things.

Environmental regulations in the U.S. and actions by the European Commission have led to substantial progress in reducing fine particulate pollution since 1990.

The U.S. has experienced a reduction of about 27% in the average annual exposure to fine particulate matter, with smaller declines in Europe. Yet, some 88,000 Americans and 2,58,000 Europeans still face increased risks of premature death because of particulate levels.

A fraction of the width of a human hair, these particles can be released from vehicles, particularly those with diesel engines, and by industry, as well as from natural sources like dust.

They enter the bloodstream through the lungs, worsening cardiac disease and increasing the risk of stroke and heart failure, in addition to causing severe respiratory problems, like asthma and pneumonia.

Although deaths caused by air pollution grew to 4.2 million in 2015 from 3.5 million in 1990, the rate of increase of about 20% was slower than the rate of the population rise during that time.

China also offers an encouraging sign. Premature deaths from particulate matter each year have stabilised at around 1.1 million since 2005. Still, that is an increase of 17% since 1990, when it was a little more than 9,45,000.