India, August, 2015 – A series of independent studies have revealed how extensive air pollution is and the harm it poses to human health and major national economies across continents. Pictures of mask-wearing people walking the streets of smog-covered cities have brought the health risks of air pollution into stark focus in recent years. Air pollution exposure has a marked effect on public health, contributing to 3.2 million premature deaths in 2014 alone. Two-thirds of those deaths occurred in Europe, China and other rapidly developing countries of Asia.
In addition to this, mapped by Blueair, a global leader in mobile indoor air purification technologies, the latest information shows air pollution is now unequivocally linked to lung cancer, heart attacks, strokes and asthma causing the premature deaths every year in Europe, Asia and China.
A recent World Health Organization (WHO) survey found that 13 of the most polluted 20 cities in the world are in India. The capital, Delhi, is the most polluted city in the world according to survey report. The recent Environmental Preference Index has ranked India 174 out of 178 countries for air quality. It has become a leading cause of premature death in India, with about 620,000 people dying every year from pollution-related diseases, says the WHO.
“The evidence of the danger posed by outdoor and indoor air pollution to human health and economic development is compelling and beyond scientific doubt,” said Bengt Rittri, CEO and founder of Blueair. Mr. Rittri created the hi-tech indoor air purification company in the mid-1990s because he believed breathing clean air is a basic human right. A Blueair purifier can remove upto 99.97 percent of indoor airborne particles such as dust, smoke, particles and allergens. Earlier this year the U.S. Embassy in Delhi was reported to have purchased 1800 Blueair units for its facilities.
According to World Bank’s latest economic evaluation, the cost of serious health consequences from particulate pollution in India is assessed at 3 per cent of its GDP and the total damage because of environmental degradation amounts to Rs 3.75 trillion (US $80 billion). This is equivalent to 5.7 per cent of the country’s GDP.
The latest number crunching by the World Bank is an eye-opener. Its evaluation of the damage to health from a gamut of environmental factors—including air pollution, inadequate water supply and poor sanitation—shows outdoor air pollution takes the maximum toll in India. This is followed by indoor air pollution.
The combined cost of outdoor and indoor air pollution is the highest annual burden on India’s economy. Outdoor air pollution accounts for 29 per cent, followed by indoor air pollution (23 per cent).
The higher cost of outdoor and indoor air pollution is driven by high exposure of the young and productive urban population to particulate matter pollution. That leads to higher rates of deaths due to cardiopulmonary and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases among adults.
“The big problem is that most people do not see air pollution as a major issue, unless you live in smog beset cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata or Chennai. Obesity and alcohol grab the headlines, yet people don’t realize the insidious danger posed by modern air pollution. Thanks to a toxic mix of diesel fumes, dust and chemicals, just taking a walk in a modern city is turning men, women and children into passive smokers,” Mr. Rittri said.
Mr. Rittri added that for air pollution is to be addressed effectively, national health authorities need to work harder to flag awareness about the problem and the potential to save lives and reduce health costs. He urged lawmakers to develop better air quality monitoring systems that can be linked to mobile applications such as Blueair’s own air quality App (available in India for both Apple and Android phones) to allow people to see what is in the air they are breathing.