A study released Wednesday has found that China and India together were responsible for half the total global attributable deaths from air pollution in 2017. Long-term exposure to outdoor and indoor air pollution is estimated to have contributed to 4.9 million deaths in 2017, of which China and India accounted for 1.2 million deaths each, states the State of Global Air report 2019, prepared by the Boston-based Health Effects Institute (HEI).
The report cites an analysis of the Global Burden of Disease data from 2016 to conclude that air pollution collectively reduced life expectancy by 1 year, 8 months on average worldwide, rivalling the effect of smoking. “This means a child born today will die 20 months sooner, on average, than would be expected in the absence of air pollution. When considered separately, exposure to ambient PM2.5 is responsible for just over 1 year, household air pollution is responsible for almost 9 months, and ozone is responsible for less than 1 month of life span lost,” it states.
The report found that long-term exposure to ambient PM2.5 contributed to 2.9 million deaths in 2017, making PM2.5 exposure responsible for 5.2% of all global deaths. The highest burden was concentrated in the world’s two most populous countries: China (8.52 lakh deaths) and India (6.73 lakh deaths), together accounted for 52% of the total global PM2.5-attributable deaths.
Annual PM2.5 exposures were highest in South Asia, where Nepal (100 micograms/cubic metre), India (91 micograms/cu. m), Bangladesh (61 micograms/cu. m), and Pakistan (58 micograms/cu. m) had the highest exposures. Bhutan’s exposure level (38 micograms/cu. m) was the lowest in the South Asia region. The 10 countries with the lowest national PM2.5 exposure levels were the Maldives, the United States, Norway, Estonia, Iceland, Canada, Sweden, New Zealand, Brunei, and Finland. Population-weighted PM2.5 concentrations averaged 8 micograms/cu. m or less in these countries.
Household air pollution
In South Asia, household air pollution contributes to an additional life expectancy loss of about 1 year and 3 months, bringing the total life expectancy loss from air pollution to 2 years and 6 months, the report states. In sub-Saharan Africa, where more than 80% of people cook with solid fuels, household air pollution dominates the impact on life expectancy, accounting for 1 year and 4 months of the nearly 2 years in life expectancy loss from air pollution overall.