Published: Wed, February 15, 2017
Science | By Boyd Webster

Around 2.2 million deaths in India and China from air pollution

Around 2.2 million deaths in India and China from air pollution

"You can nearly think of this as the flawless storm for India", Michael Brauer, a professor of environment and health relationships at the University of British Columbia and an author of the study, told The New York Times.

The "State of Global Air 2017" is the first of a new series of annual reports and accompanying interactive website, designed by Health Effects Institute in cooperation with the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington and University of British Columbia.

Over half of the deaths across the world caused by air pollution were in India and China where 2.2 million people died in 2015, a study said on Tuesday.

"The benefits of active travel outweighed the harm from air pollution in all but the most extreme air pollution concentrations", said one of the report's authors, Audrey de Nazelle from Imperial College's Centre for Environmental Policy.

We've all seen pictures of Chinese cities blanketed in smog, and China's air pollution has been the world's worst for years in terms of the number of premature deaths it causes.

But while China is mounting a concerted effort to address the issue, the same can't be said of India.

But where deaths linked to air pollution in China have steadied in recent years, the rate has soared in India where smog readings in major cities routinely eclipse safe exposure levels.

The study shows that in 2015, long-term exposure to fine particulate matter - the risky tiny particles that can penetrate the lungs and cause cancer, heart disease and other ailments - contributed to 4.2 million deaths globally.

"These studies are hard to do, and isolating the effects of air pollution is hard", Ezzati said.

But if he were an Indian citizen, he said, "I'd say, 'Let's not sit there and do nothing about it. Let's not be exposed to it today as more research is being done'".

A traffic policeman wears a mask to protect himself from dust and air pollution as he signals to drivers in New Delhi, India, Dec. 23, 2015. India's Supreme Court banned the sale of fireworks, popular during the Hindu festival Diwali, in the capital after the emergency.

They found that cyclists in the most polluted cities - based on World Health Organisation (WHO) pollution figures - would only have to ride for 30 minutes before hitting the "breakeven point" and their health would start to suffer.

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