India and China account for more than half of the world's premature deaths due to air pollution, a new report said on Tuesday.
Research showed that air pollution caused more than 4.2 million early deaths worldwide in 2015, making it the fifth highest cause of death, with around 2.2 million deaths in China and India alone.
India’s rapidly worsening air pollution is causing about 1.1 million people to die prematurely each year and is now surpassing China’s as the deadliest in the world, a new study of global air pollution shows.
The number of premature deaths in China caused by dangerous air particles, known as PM2.5, has stabilized globally in recent years but has risen sharply in India, according to the report, issued jointly on Tuesday by the Health Effects Institute, a Boston research institute focused on the health impacts of air pollution, and the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, a population health research center in Seattle.
India has recorded a nearly 50% increase in premature deaths linked to PM2.5 fine particles that lodge deep in the lungs between 1990 and 2015, the report found.
"India now approaches China in the number of deaths attributable to PM2.5,” said the report.
Air pollution has been linked to higher rates of cancer, stroke and heart disease, as well as chronic respiratory conditions like asthma.
"(India) has got a longer way to go, and they still appear to have some ministers who say there is not a strong connection between air pollution and mortality in spite of quite a lot of evidence," HEI President Dan Greenbaum said.
India and neighbouring Bangladesh have experienced the steepest increases in pollution since 2010 "and now have the highest PM2.5 concentrations” in the world, the report said.
Pollution in New Delhi in November reached crisis levels, with crop burning, car exhaust, dust and coal plants blamed for the record smog.
The government shuttered schools and temporarily closed a coal-fired power plant as a stop gap, but experts say the energy-hungry nation will need to do more if it’s to clean the air for India’s 1.25 billion people.