Dirty air causes 7% of deaths in India's big cities

Over 7% of all deaths in India's 10 largest cities are linked to air pollution. This is clear from a new large-scale study.

The researchers urged the country's leadership to take action to save tens of thousands of lives a year.

Smog-filled Indian cities, including the capital Delhi, suffer massively from the world's worst air pollution, choking residents' lungs and posing a growing threat to the health system.

For the purpose of the new study, a team led by Indian specialists examined the levels of cancer-causing microparticles known as PM2.5 pollutants in the cities of Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, Pune, Shimla and Varanasi.

From 2008 to 2019, more than 33,000 deaths per year could be attributed to exposure to PM2.5 pollutants above the World Health Organization's recommended value of 15 micrograms per cubic meter, the study said.

This represents 7.2% of the recorded deaths in these cities during the reporting period.

In India's capital, New Delhi, there are more than 12,000 deaths a year linked to air pollution - or 11.5% of the total.

But even in cities where air pollution is not considered as severe - such as Mumbai, Calcutta and Chennai - the death rate was high, the researchers pointed out.

They called for tightening air quality standards in India.

The country's current recommendation is 60 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic meter, which is four times the WHO recommendations.

Reducing and enforcing the limit "will save tens of thousands of lives a year," said study co-author Joel Schwartz of Harvard University, AFP reported.

"There are pollution control methods that are being used elsewhere. They urgently need to be implemented in India," he added.

Air pollution can cause strokes, heart disease, lung cancer and other respiratory diseases. | BGNES