In a study in The Lancet Planetary Health, which concludes that one in every eight deaths in India in 2017 was attributable to ambient air pollution, a contiguous group of states in central, western and northern India has emerged with the highest deathsrates attributable to such pollution. Rajasthan tops the list with 112 deaths per lakh population, followed by Uttar Pradesh (111), Uttarakhand (106) and Haryana (100), while Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh each had 97-100 such deaths per lakh in 2017.
At the lower end of the scale are several of the Northeastern states — including Arunachal Pradesh (36), Meghalaya (43), Nagaland (49) – while Union territories other than Delhi show a pollution-related death rate of 48.5. While Manipur and Mizoram too figure on the lower side of the list, Tripura had a high rate (91)in 2017 and Assam’s rate was 72 per lakh, higher than Delhi’s 65. Death rates in the southern states ranged between a high of 95 in Karnataka and a low of 66 in Telangana. Among other larger states, the death rate was 93 in West Bengal and in the 80s in Maharashtra and Gujarat.
Tobacco use vs air pollution
It has emerged that life years lost due to air pollution were higher than those lost to tobacco use. This comparison is based on Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs). One DALY can be thought of as one lost year of “healthy” life, the World Health Organization explains on its website. When DALYs are added up across a population, it gives a measure of the gap between an ideal health situation and actual health status.
The study found the DALY rate attributable to air pollution in India in 2017 was higher for lower respiratory infections than the rate attributable to tobacco use. For noncommunicable diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, ischaemic heart disease, stroke, diabetes, lung cancer, and cataract, the DALY rate attributable to air pollution was at least as high as the rate attributable to tobacco use. The graph shows a comparison.