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Study Reveals Air Pollution Is Responsible For 1.8 Lakh Excess Deaths In Tropical Cities

Scientists have revealed rapid degradation in air quality and increases in urban exposure to air pollutants hazardous to health

The team found that increasing levels of PM2.5 were linked to more severe disease at diagnosis, faster disease progression as measured by lung function decline and higher likelihood of dying sooner
Researchers have attributed the rapid degradation in air quality to emerging industries and residential sources like road traffic, waste burning, and widespread use of charcoal and fuelwood

London: A study has revealed that around 180,000 avoidable deaths over 14 years in fast-growing tropical cities were caused by a rapid rise in emerging air pollution. The study was published in the journal, ‘Science Advances’. Scientists have revealed rapid degradation in air quality and increases in urban exposure to air pollutants hazardous to health. Across all the cities, scientists found significant annual increases in pollutants directly hazardous to the health of up to 14 per cent for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and up to 8 per cent for fine particles (PM2.5), as well as increases in precursors of PM2.5 of up to 12 per cent for ammonia and up to 11 per cent for reactive volatile organic compounds.

Also Read: Climate Change Is For Real, Here’s Why We Need To Limit Global Warming And Act Now

The researchers attributed this rapid degradation in air quality to emerging industries and residential sources like road traffic, waste burning, and widespread use of charcoal and fuelwood. Lead author Dr Karn Vohra (UCL Geography), who completed the study as a PhD student at the University of Birmingham, said,

Open burning of biomass for land clearance and agricultural waste disposal has in the past overwhelmingly dominated air pollution in the tropics. Our analysis suggests we’re entering a new era of air pollution in these cities, with some experiencing rates of degradation in a year that other cities experience in a decade.

The scientists also found 1.5- to 4- fold increases in urban population exposure to air pollution over the study period in 40 of the 46 cities for NO2 and 33 of the 46 cities for PM2.5., caused by a combination of population growth and rapid deterioration in air quality.

According to the study, the increase in the number of people dying prematurely from exposure to air pollution was highest in cities in South Asia, in particular Dhaka, Bangladesh (totalling 24,000 people), and the Indian cities of Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Chennai, Surat, Pune and Ahmedabad (totalling 100,000 people).

The researchers said that while the number of deaths in tropical cities in Africa is currently lower due to recent improvements in healthcare across the continent resulting in a decline in overall premature mortality, the worst effects of air pollution on health will likely occur in the coming decades. Study co-author Dr Eloise Marais (UCL Geography) said,

We continue to shift air pollution from one region to the next, rather than learning from errors of the past and ensuring rapid industrialisation and economic development don’t harm public health. We hope our results will incentivise preventative action in the tropics.

Also Read: WHO Calls For Prioritising Equitable Health For Fairer, Greener, Healthier World

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity,  that is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

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