93% of Indians exposed to high PM2.5 levels: Reports

NEW DELHI: Around 93% of India’s population is living in areas where levels of hazardous particulate matter PM2.5 are worse than the World Health Organisation’s least stringent norms and air pollution reduces life expectancy in the country by 1.5 years (more than cancer), according to reports of US-based Health Effects Institute (HEI) released on Thursday. It flagged that air pollution accounts for more than one in nine deaths globally. Its findings also show that India ranks fifth with 93% of its population exposed, following Egypt (1st), Pakistan (2nd), Bangladesh (3rd) with 100% of their population exposed and Nigeria on 4th with 95% population exposed to fine particulate matter. If one looks at the WHO’s new norms of five micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) as announced last year, no country in the world currently meets these new guidelines.

The HEI, funded by the US Environmental Protection Agency, the industry, and development banks, found that with an average annual population-weighted PM2.5 of 83 µg/m3 in 2019, as many as 9,79,700 deaths in India can be attributed to the fine particulate matter.