7 Alarming facts The Lancet Report told us about the severity of air pollution.

7 Alarming facts The Lancet Report told us about the severity of air pollution.

The Lancet has updated its global pollution analysis report from 2015 stating the worldwide air pollution impact. India experienced major effects of air pollution leading to 1.67 million premature deaths in 2019. The Lancet Planetary Health published a report on the 17th of May, highlighting the severe environmental and economic impact of air pollution with one in every 6 deaths worldwide occurring due to pollution.

1. India was worst affected with 1.67 million deaths due to Air Pollution in 2019: 


The report presented by the Lancet Commission marked India to be the country most affected due to air pollution. The impact of air pollution killed 1.67 million people in India in 2019.  With key areas being lead poisoning and chemical pollution, modern air pollution is on the rise. Modern forms of air pollution include ambient air pollution which is driven by industrialization, uncontrolled urbanization, population growth, fossil fuel combustion, and an absence of adequate national or international chemical policy. Ambient air pollution levels are on a constant rise with around 66% of increment over the past two decades.

2. Pollution & Smoking are responsible for more deaths than Drug Abuse, AIDS, and Malnutrition:


According to the GBD 2019 data, the harmful effects of air pollution on disease and disability differ by sex. The rate of premature death due to exposure to air pollution, lead pollution, and occupational pollution is higher in men than in women. Pollution has a greater impact on health than war, terrorism, malaria, HIV, tuberculosis, drugs, and alcohol have ever had. Deaths by smoking were at par with the deaths by pollution as a whole. 

3. Increase in deaths by Modern Air Pollution and decrease in deaths from Traditional Air Pollution observed in the past two decades:

A decrease in deaths caused by traditional air pollution in the poverty-stricken section of South Asia, East Asia, and Southeast Asia was observed. Traditional air pollution includes indoor air pollution caused by the burning of solid fuels, VOCs, etc. This decline served as an offset to the increased numbers of death caused by modern air pollution which occurs due to emissions from heavy industries, ambient air pollutants such as Particulate matter, gases, environmental chemical pollution, etc. This was responsible for 4.5 million deaths worldwide. The cause of this increase in numbers since 2015 is due to an increase in modern pollution i.e, ambient air pollution, and in the incidence of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) linked to air pollution.

4. Children were worst affected by Lead Pollution: 

The report states that Lead pollution had the worst impact on children. Pollution caused by lead leads to adverse mental conditions in children. Lead has neurological effects on brain development at an early age. The common modes of exposure to lead pollution are unsound recycling of lead-acid batteries and e-waste without pollution controls, spices that are contaminated with lead, pottery glazed with lead salts, and lead in paint and other consumer products. In the GBD report 2019, an undercount estimation of deaths caused due to lead pollution was 0.9 Million annually. Population-wide lead blood testing in pregnant women and children is recommended by the Lancet Commission to monitor lead pollution.

5. Air Pollution corresponds to Climate Change:


Air pollution and climate change are interwoven world issues. Both share the same sources that lead to developmental issues at large. These emissions include PM10 and PM2.5, long-lived greenhouse gases, and short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) such as methane, black carbon (ie, soot), and hydrofluorocarbons serve as air pollutants and climate warmers, simultaneously. Fuels used for domestic purposes, contribute about 58% to the global black carbon emission. Every sector needs to integrate pollution control into plans to address other key threats such as climate, biodiversity, food, and agriculture thereby asserting a stronger stand on pollution in planetary health.

6. Transboundary pollution and the need for world collaboration:

Evidence shows that pollution can be transported through wind, water, food chain, etc.  Industrial activity in China has increased airborne pollutants in places as near as Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, and as far away as California, the USA. Not just air pollution but the pollution caused by soil and water in consumer goods such as seafood, chocolate, and toxic metals found in infant formula and baby food are of major concern.

7: Avoidable Deaths cause a huge economic loss amounting to 6.1% of world GDP:

A World Bank study conducted on health costs of PM2.5 air pollution using GBD 2019 data showed that, in 2019, the global economic welfare losses attributable to household air pollution and ambient PM2.5 air pollution amounted to 6.1% of global economic output. Economic impacts of air pollution are especially severe in regions of East Asia and the Pacific, where losses are equivalent to 9.3% of GDP, and South Asia, where losses are equivalent to 10.3% of GDP. India loses around $95 billion every fiscal year due to air pollution, which amounts to about 3% of India’s total GDP. 


Air pollution if unchecked could seriously affecting and not only India but the rest of the world is concerned.  The global economic welfare losses attribute to household air pollution and ambient PM2.5 air pollution have amounted to 6.1% of global economic output. India has lost about 3% of its total GDP in a year.  A rise in these numbers and a steep decrease in the quality of life are the prices we pay if we continue to not address air pollution effectively. 

We need to have a vision of 2030 with actionable steps to overcome air pollution. With awareness drives and actionable goals regarding the monitoring and controlling of air pollution, we can move towards solving the problem.

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(This article is written by Priya Singh, Content Writer, with inputs from Shashank Aggarwal, Senior Manager, Marketing, and reviewed by Kiran Shinde, Environment Engineer, and Ammu Prameela Nandkumar, Air Quality Engineer at Devic Earth.)

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