Neighbours India and China are accountable for 1.2 million deaths each because of air pollution, says the State of Global Air report 2019 by the Health Effects Institute (HEI) and the Institute for Health Metrics.
LONDON-The life expectancy of a child born today could be reduced by an average of 20 months due to health damage caused by air pollution, researchers said on Wednesday. And it only rivals smoking.
Out of these, 3 million deaths are directly attributed to PM2.5, half of which are from India and China together.
The report, which uses data up to the end of 2017, estimates that if air pollution levels were brought within World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines Bangladesh life expectancy would see the highest expected gain, at almost 1.3 years.
Worldwide too, more people globally die from air pollution related diseases than from road traffic injuries, malaria, malnutrition, alcohol use or physical inactivity.
And while the quality of it has been poor over the years, India and China appear to be particularly susceptible to its disease burden, as is clearly visible in the relative pollution levels and disease burden in countries neighbouring India (see slider below).
The study states that nearly half of world population, about 3.6 billion people, was exposed to household pollution in 2017. But, the reports adds, China has improved in controlling its air pollution in recent years.
And while China had made progress in reducing air pollution, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India experienced the largest increases in air pollution levels since 2010, the report found.
The institute said schemes initiated by the Indian government to address pollution like the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, Household LPG program, accelerated Bharat Stage 6/VI clean vehicle standards, and the new National Clean Air Programme can have significant health benefits in the coming years. "It took about a dozen years and a recession for the United States to achieve the same percentage reduction in particulate pollution that China has achieved in such a short time", said Michael Greenstone, Milton Friedman Distinguished Service Professor in Economics and Director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC).
"In much of the world, just breathing in an average city is the health equivalent to being a heavy smoker", he added in a statement.
India witnesses the highest impact of household pollution, mainly triggered by cooking with fossil fuels. More than 1.2 million early deaths were caused by air pollution in each country that year.
The report claimed that India still hosts 15 out of 20 most polluted cities in the world, with Gurugram and Ghaziabad being the most polluted cities in the world, followed by Faridabad, Bhiwadi and Noida in the top six and Delhi on the 11th spot.