Tuesday, February 21, 2017

State of Air 2017: China, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh Among Most Polluted

The 2.5 micron particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution of air accounts for the world's highest number of pollution-related premature deaths in China and South Asia, according to a report titled "State of Global Air 2017".

Source: State of Global Air 2017

PM2.5 Pollution Deaths:

More than half of the 4.2 million deaths attributed to PM2.5 pollution occur in just two countries: India and China. The next two countries accounting for the highest pollution-related mortality are Russia with 136,900, Pakistan with 135,100 and Bangladesh with 122,400 deaths in 2015, according to the report.

India and Bangladesh experienced some of the largest increases in PM2.5- attributable mortality, on the order of 50% to 60%. India (1.09 million deaths) now approaches China (1.11 million deaths) in the number of deaths attributable to PM2.5.

Source: State of Global Air 2017
Nearly all (86%) of the most extreme concentrations (above 75 µg/m3 ) were experienced by populations in China, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

Among the world’s 10 most populous countries and the EU, the biggest increase (14% to 25%) in seasonal average population-weighted concentrations of ozone over the last 25 years were experienced in China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Brazil.

The report said decreases in exposure in Russia, Brazil, Indonesia, and Pakistan were offset by population growth and population aging, resulting in net increases in attributable mortality.

In the United States and the European Union, reductions in exposure over the past 25 years have offset the contributions of population growth and aging, resulting in net decreases in PM2.5-attributable mortality (by 17% and 22%, respectively).

A similar pattern contributed to a net decrease of 34% in PM2.5-attributable mortality in Nigeria, although the reductions in exposure were likely due to factors different from those in the United States and EU. Within the EU, this pattern held in all member countries except Italy, Greece, and Malta, where attributable mortality increased from 1990 to 2015, according to the report.

Haze Under Himalayas Source: NASA

South Asia's Vulnerability:

South Asia is particularly susceptible to pollutants that hang in the air for extended periods of time. The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has recently released images of dull gray haze hovering over northern India and Pakistan, and parts of Bangladesh. It is believed that emissions from solid fuel burning, industrial pollutants and farm clearing fires get trapped along the southern edge of the Himalayas. NASA Earth Observatory explains this phenomenon as follows:

"The haze visible in this image likely results from a combination of agricultural fires, urban and industrial pollution, and a regional temperature inversion. Most of the time, air higher in the atmosphere is cooler than air near the planet’s surface, and this configuration allows warm air to rise from the ground and disperse pollutants. In the wintertime, however, cold air frequently settles over northern India, trapping warmer air underneath. The temperature inversion traps pollutants along with warm air at the surface, contributing to the buildup of haze."

Urgent Actions Needed: 

South Asian governments need to act to deal with rapidly rising particulate pollution jointly. Some of the steps they need to take are as follows:

1. Reduce the use of solid fuels such as cow dung, wood and coal to limit particulate matter released into the atmosphere.

2. Impose higher emission standards on industries and vehicles through regulations.

3. Increase forest cover by planting more trees.

4. Encourage the use of more renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, hydro, etc.

The cost of acting now may seem high but it will turn out out to be a lot more expensive to deal with extraordinary disease burdens resulting from rising air pollution.


South Asia accounts for more than a third of all PM2.5 pollution related deaths in the world. The sources of particulate pollution range from solid fuel burning to crop clearing fires and use of dirty fuels in vehicles and industries. Recognition of the growing problem is urgent. Failure to act could be very costly in terms of human health.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan's Response to Climate Change

Diwali Pollution Warnings in India

Cow Dung Sales in India

India's Air Most Toxic

Pak Entrepreneur Recycles Trash into Energy and Fertilizer

Bhopal Disaster

Environmental Pollution in India

Rising Population, Depleting Resources

India Leads the World in Open Defecation

Heavy Disease Burdens in South Asia


Abdul said...

Dhaka has ranked second on a global list of cities with worst air pollution, which claims 122,400 lives in Bangladesh a year.

Delhi tops the list, while Karachi and Beijing stand third and fourth, according to the State of Global Air Report 2017.

Air pollution is the leading environmental cause of death worldwide, and 92 percent of the world's population lives in areas with unhealthy air, mentions the report launched by Boston-based Health Effects Institute (HEI) on Tuesday.

India and Bangladesh experienced the steepest increase in air pollution levels between 1990 and 2015, it says.

Bangladesh, India and Pakistan had fine particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) attributable rates five to 10 times the lowest rates found in the US and Japan, shows the report.

PM2.5 is an air pollutant that becomes a concern for people's health when its levels are high in the air. This tiny particle reduces visibility and causes the air to appear hazy when its levels are elevated.

Long-term exposure to fine particulate matter -- the most significant element of air pollution -- contributed to 4.2 million premature deaths and to a loss of 103 million healthy years of life in 2015, making air pollution the fifth biggest cause of death among all health risks, including smoking and high blood pressure.

China and India together were responsible for over half of the total global attributable deaths, shows the report.

“We are seeing increasing air pollution problems worldwide, and this new report and website details why that air pollution is a major contributor to early death,” said Dan Greenbaum, president of the HEI, which prepared the report in cooperation with the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, and the University of British Columbia.

The study finds that increasing exposure and a growing and ageing population mean India now rivals China in having the highest air pollution health burdens in the world, with both countries facing some 1.1 million early deaths from air pollution in 2015.

Use of solid fuel, coal-fired power plants, and open burning of agricultural and other waste are among the most important contributors to outdoor air pollution.

Among the 10 most populous countries and also those in the European Union, Bangladesh and India now have the highest exposures to PM2.5, having experienced the steepest increase since 2010.


Anonymous said...

These metrics warrant revision.

South Asia,Middle East,Central Asia has a natural high base level of particulate matter much higher than cold and damp europe.

It hasn't stopped civilization much superior to Europe for most of human history in these places.

Also I wonder if unemployed people in places like Detroit appreciate the cleaner air now that most of the 'polluting' jobs have been transferred to places like China,India etc leaving them with little more than fresh air and government handouts to survive on.

Riaz Haq said...

Study: #India Leads World in #Pollution -Linked Deaths, followed by #China, #Nigeria , #Indonesia and #Pakistan. according to a report published Wednesday that estimated the global impact of contaminants in the air, water and workplace. | Voice of America https://www.voanews.com/science-health/study-india-leads-world-pollution-linked-deaths

India leads the world in pollution-linked deaths, followed by China and Nigeria, according to a report published Wednesday that estimated the global impact of contaminants in the air, water and workplace.

The report by the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP) found pollution to be the largest environmental cause of premature death on the planet, causing 15 percent of all deaths — 8.3 million people.

Among the 10 countries with the most pollution deaths in 2017, the latest year for which data were available, were some of the world's largest and wealthiest nations, along with some poorer ones.

India and China led in the number of pollution deaths, with about 2.3 million and 1.8 million deaths, respectively, followed by Nigeria, Indonesia and Pakistan.

The United States, with 325 million people, came in at number seven with almost 200,000 deaths.

"The report reminds us all that pollution is a global crisis," said Rachael Kupka, acting executive director of GAHP. "It does not matter where you live. Pollution will find you."

Poorer nations

Pollution-linked death rates were highest in some of the world's most impoverished countries, where poor water sanitation and contaminated indoor air are major killers.

Chad, Central African Republic and North Korea saw the highest number of deaths per 100,000 people (287, 251 and 202, respectively), with India entering the per capita list at number 10 with 174 deaths per 100,000 people.

"India has seen increasing industrial and vehicular pollution from urban growth while poor sanitation and contaminated indoor air persist in low-income communities," the report said.

On the other end of the scale, five nations in the Arabian Peninsula rank among the 10 countries in the world with the lowest death rates from pollution, with Qatar reporting the lowest.

Drawing its data from the Institute of Health Metrics Evaluation, which is based in Seattle and was founded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the report broke risk factors into four categories: air, water, occupational and lead.

Air pollution represents a combination of household and outdoor contaminants as well as ozone, while water pollution included unsafe water and poor sanitation.

Occupational, lead risks

Occupational risk encompassed deaths from carcinogens, secondhand smoke, particulates, gases and fumes, while lead pollution deaths were those associated with exposure to legacy emissions from leaded gasoline. This refers to the lead that was deposited, and remains, in the soil from car exhaust.

The report also named ambient air pollution as responsible for 40 percent of all pollution-related deaths, led by China, India and Pakistan (1.2 million, 1.2 million and 130,000, respectively).

The number of global deaths linked to pollution barely exceeded those from tobacco use, which is around 8 million, but greatly eclipsed deaths from alcohol and drugs, high sodium diets, HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and war, it said.

Riaz Haq said...

Rich cities #London, #Paris, #LosAngeles, #HongKong breathe cleaner #air. #India is host to 12 of top 15 most #polluted cities in central & south Asia regions. N’Djamena, #Baghdad and #NewDelhi are suffering higher levels of #pollution than last year https://www.ft.com/content/438562af-d815-4ed5-83ce-c65b85db5782

Residents of Paris, London, Los Angeles and Hong Kong are breathing cleaner air than a year ago, while N’Djamena, Baghdad and New Delhi are suffering higher levels of pollution, the latest report on global air quality shows.

Roughly 90 per cent of the world’s population is still breathing air that poses a risk to health but the gap between high and low income cities is widening, the annual study by IQAir, the Swiss-based air technology group found, using 30,000 ground level sensors from more than 7,000 cities.

The study measured the concentration of fine particulate matter with diameters of up to 2.5 microns, known as PM2.5, one of the most hazardous pollutants as it may be able to enter the bloodstream.

In richer countries, air quality was improved where industry was complying with stricter World Health Organization guidelines, and transport was being electrified, it concluded, but developing countries were struggling.

“Biomass and agricultural burning are the number one reason for stubbornly high air pollution levels in the developing world,” said Frank Hammes, IQAir chief executive.

In Europe, where Berlin and Rome had slightly worse air quality levels in 2022, household burning of wood accounted for a large proportion of winter smog.

China had managed to achieve impressive reductions in air pollution for the past seven years, Hammes said, based on a crackdown on polluting industry and a focus on renewable energy and electric vehicles, though continued burning of coal still caused serious air pollution.

In the most recent year, China’s air quality improved as extensive Covid lockdowns suppressed economic activity, leading to lower emissions.

“In 2023, it remains to be seen if China can further reduce air pollution, or if the pressure of increased economic activity leads to stagnation or an increase in air pollution,” Hammes cautioned.

The WHO estimates that poor air quality accounts for 7mn preventable deaths a year, while the World Bank has put the economic cost at more than $8tn.

New Delhi and Baghdad’s concentration of pollutants in 2022 were almost 18 times higher than the maximum safe level recommended by the WHO.

N’Djamena in Chad, one of the poorest countries in the world, earned the dubious accolade of being the most polluted capital, replacing New Delhi even though air quality there also continued to deteriorate. The surge in PM2.5 concentration in N’Djamena was attributed to massive dust storms from the Sahara Desert, the report found.

India remains host to 12 of the top 15 most polluted cities in the central and south Asia regions.

Vietnam’s capital Hanoi reported the second worst air quality in south-east Asia and was in the bottom 18 globally. Vietnam has been expanding its industrial activity rapidly in recent years as big tech companies such as Apple, Google, Dell and their suppliers invest in new factories to diversify away from China.

Several Middle Eastern capitals ranked among the 20 most polluted cities globally. These included Abu Dhabi, Riyadh and Doha, which all saw air quality worsen in 2022.

Meanwhile, Canberra in Australia overtook Nouméa, in the Pacific island of New Caledonia, to report the world’s best air quality last year. Fewer fires and dust storms helped to deliver its residents cleaner air, researchers found.

Other nations among the 13 out of 131 surveyed that met WHO’s air quality guidelines included Guam, New Zealand, Estonia, and Finland. Of the cities surveyed, Hamilton in Bermuda, Puerto Rico’s San Juan and Reykjavik in Iceland had the freshest air.