While ambient air pollution alone may have led to nearly 1.7 million deaths in India in 2019, fatalities attributed to traditional sources of pollution — indoor air and water — have dropped to less than half of the number in 2000.
The report underlines that India continued to account for the world’s largest estimated pollution-related deaths in 2019 — ahead of China with nearly 2.2 million deaths — while the amount of pollution remains well above WHO guidelines in 93% of the country despite government’s efforts to contain household pollution and substantial investments in monitoring and planning to support pollution reduction efforts.
Globally, there were nine million deaths attributable to pollution in 2019, same as in 2015. Ambient air pollution accounted for nearly 75% of all deaths, with fatalities in China the highest at 1.8 million. More than 1.8 million deaths globally are now caused by toxic chemical pollution (including lead), an increase of 66% since 2000, the update shows.
The new report also states that although the number of deaths from pollution sources associated with extreme poverty (such as indoor air pollution and water pollution) have decreased, these reductions are offset by increased deaths attributable to industrial pollution (such as ambient air pollution and chemical pollution).
Pollution remains the world’s largest environmental risk factor for disease and premature death, especially affecting low- and middle-income countries.
The new report is an update of the last report The Lancet Commission on pollution and health published in 2017 that addressed the devastating health impact and economic costs of air, water, and soil pollution on humankind and the planet.
For the update, instead of repeating global calculations, the study evaluated the cost of modern pollution on a subset of countries’ prospects for economic growth and societal development. Six countries or regions were chosen: India and China, which are the two most populous countries globally; Nigeria and Ethiopia, which are the two most populous countries in Africa; the USA, which has the world’s largest economy; and EU, which is a large economic entity with common pollution standards across member states.
“Economic losses due to modern forms of pollution have increased as a proportion of GDP between 2000 and 2019 in India, China, and Nigeria, and are now conservatively estimated to amount to approximately 1% of GDP in each of these countries. The full economic losses, if the full health impacts of pollution were to be counted and the effects of pollution on informal sectors and environmental damage were to be fully detailed, are likely to be greater,” the update report says.
The report also underlines that China and India, countries with massive pollution challenges, have been making substantial investments in monitoring and planning to support pollution reduction efforts.
“India has developed instruments and regulatory powers to mitigate pollution sources but there is no centralised system to drive pollution control efforts and achieve substantial improvements. In 93% of India, the amount of pollution remains well above WHO guidelines. International organisations have supported various databases to monitor air quality,” it says.