The recently released annual report titled State of Global Air 2020 states that long term exposure to air pollution contributed to approx. 67 lakh deaths globally in 2019. This is the fourth highest death risk factor, the other three being high blood pressure, tobacco, and dietary risk. The report was released by US-based Health Effects Institute and Global Burden of Disease (GBD).
Data is obtained from ground monitors and satellites to make the assessments. To assess the annual average PM2.5 exposure, GBD scientists linked the concentrations by dividing the globe into blocks or grids with the number of people living within each block. This helped to produce a population-weighted annual average concentration.
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Some of the countries with high death rates are China, with 18 lakh deaths due to air pollution in 2019, followed by India with 16 lakh fatalities. Combined, these two countries contributed to more than half of the global deaths associated with air pollution.
As per the report, India recorded the highest annual average of PM 2.5 concentrations globally in 2019, followed by Nepal, Niger, Qatar and Nigeria.
India is also one of the top 10 nations with the highest levels of toxic gas pollution. The data of last ten years reveal a 17% spike in ozone concentrations in India, while globally the pollutant concentration has gone up from 47.3 parts per billion (ppb) in 2010 to 49.5 ppb in 2019.
The startling discovery in the report is India has the highest number of premature deaths linked to air pollution.
Apart from this, the Health Effects Institute (HEI), did a comprehensive analysis of the impact of global air pollution on newborns. The study found that “outdoor and indoor particulate matter pollution” contributed to nearly 5 lakh infant deaths globally and about 1,16,000 infants in India within the first month of their birth.