Global Deaths From Air Pollution Hit 8.1 Million In 2021, 2.1 Million in India

A recent report by the Health Effects Institute (HEI), in collaboration with UNICEF, highlights the devastating impact of air pollution, which contributed to 8.1 million deaths worldwide in 2021. India and China were the hardest hit, with 2.1 million and 2.3 million deaths, respectively.

The report, published on Wednesday, underscores the severe toll on young children, noting that 169,400 children under five years old died in India due to air pollution in 2021. Nigeria followed with 114,100 child deaths, while Pakistan, Ethiopia, and Bangladesh reported 68,100, 31,100, and 19,100 child deaths, respectively.

Air pollution emerged as the leading risk factor for deaths in South Asia, outpacing high blood pressure, poor diet, and tobacco use. Among children under five, it was the second leading cause of death after malnutrition.

India also led in ozone-related chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) deaths, with 237,000 fatalities, followed by China (125,600) and Bangladesh (15,000).

The report points out that 2021 witnessed the highest number of air pollution-related deaths ever recorded, with India and China accounting for 54% of the global burden. Other heavily impacted countries included Pakistan (256,000 deaths), Bangladesh (236,300), Myanmar (101,600), Indonesia (221,600), Vietnam (99,700), the Philippines (98,209), Nigeria (206,700), and Egypt (116,500).

The study attributes more than 90% of these deaths (7.8 million) to PM2.5 pollution, which includes ambient and household sources. PM2.5 particles, smaller than 2.5 micrometres, penetrate deep into the lungs and bloodstream, increasing the risk of severe health conditions like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, lung cancer, and COPD.

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