As to Anumita Roychowdhury, CSE’s
executive director-research and advocacy and head of its air pollution
unit, “This GBD count on air pollution and its health risks must trigger
urgent, aggressive and most stringent action in India to curb air
pollution to protect public health. India cannot afford to enhance
health risk at a time when much of its economic growth and motorization
are yet to happen.”
The latest GBD results have been produced
by a rigorous scientific process involving over 450 global experts and
partner institutions including the Institute of Health Metrics and
Evaluation, the World Health Organization, the University of Queensland,
Australia, Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University and the Health
Alarming facts about killer breath
The facts presented as latest result
indicates at shocking increase in global death toll due to outdoor air
pollution. According to the latest tally, air pollution causes 3.2
million deaths worldwide. This has increased from 800,000, last
estimated by GBD in the year 2000 – a whopping 300 per cent increase. In
the year 2000, GBD assessments had reported a much smaller air
pollution-related burden of disease. The new estimates of particulate
air pollution are based on ground-level measurements, satellite remote
sensing and global chemical transport models to capture population
In South Asia, air pollution has been
ranked amongst the top 10 killers, just below blood pressure, tobacco
smoking, indoor air pollution, poor intake of fruits and diabetes. This
is scary as outdoor air pollution is a leveller that makes everyone –
rich and the poor -- vulnerable.
The new GBD estimates over 2.1 million
premature deaths and 52 million years of healthy life lost in 2010 due
to fine particle air pollution in Asia, which is two-thirds of the
burden worldwide. Killer outdoor air contributes to 1.2 million deaths
in East Asia which is in throes of high level of economic growth and
motorization and 712,000 deaths in South Asia (including India) which is
at the take-off stage. This is much higher than the combined toll of
400,000 in EU 27, Eastern Europe, and Russia.
“Days of doubts and complacency are over.
There is hard enough evidence now to act urgently to reduce the public
health risks to all, particularly the children, elderly, and poor. No
one can escape toxic air. India will have to take aggressive action to
reverse the trend of short term respiratory and cardiac effects as well
as the long term cancer and other metabolic and cellular effects.
Remember – toxic effects like cancer surface after a long latency
period. Therefore, exposure to air pollution will have to be reduced
today to reduce the burden of dieses,” says Anumita Roychowdhury
Urgent action needed
Saying that India cannot afford to ignore
these numbers anymore, CSE made the following demands to combat the
danger of air pollution.
· Make National Ambient Air Quality
Standards legally binding in all regions: The national air quality
planning and city action plans need a roadmap for each source of
pollution and aggressive measures. Impose penalty on cities if air
quality standards are violated.
· Need stringent vehicle technology and
fuel quality roadmap and in-use vehicle management to cut health impact
· Control and cut explosive increase in
vehicle numbers by scaling up public transport, non-motorised transport
and compact city planning.
· Strengthen implementation plans for
critically polluted areas that have been notified.
· Account for health cost in decision
making: Valuation of acute and chronic illnesses must be linked to
decision on air pollution control measures.
· Need public information system on daily
air quality with health advisories and implement smog alert and
pollution emergencies measures.