The first-ever comprehensive analysis of air pollution’s global impact on newborns has found that high particulate matter contributed to the deaths of more than 116,000 Indian infants who did not survive their first month, according to a new global study, State of Global Air 2020 (SoGA 2020).
More than half of these deaths were associated with outdoor PM2.5 and others were linked to use of solid fuels such as charcoal, wood, and animal dung for cooking.
Long-term exposure to outdoor and household air pollution contributed to over 1.67 million annual deaths from stroke, heart attack, diabetes, lung cancer, chronic lung diseases, and neonatal diseases, in India in 2019.
In infants, most deaths were related to complications from low birth weight and preterm birth. Overall, air pollution is now the biggest risk factor for death among others, according to the SoGA 2020 report.
The report was published on Wednesday by Health Effects Institute (HEI1), an independent, nonprofit research institute funded jointly by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and others.
This report comes as COVID-19 — an infection that puts people with heart and lung disease at high risk of death — has claimed more than 110,000 lives in India. Although the link between air pollution and COVID-19 is not completely established, there is clear evidence linking air pollution and increased heart and lung disease. There is growing concern that exposure to high levels of air pollution during winter months in South Asian countries and East Asia could exacerbate the effects of COVID-19.
“Addressing impacts of air pollution on adverse pregnancy outcomes and newborn health is really important for low- and middle-income countries, not only because of the high prevalence of low birth weight, preterm birth, and child growth deficits but because it allows the design of strategic interventions that can be directed at these vulnerable groups,” said Dr. Kalpana Balakrishnan, an air pollution and health expert who was not involved with the study.
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