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Air pollutants in India kill more than 400,000 people a year in urban and rural areas

by K. V. Venkatasubramanian, special to C&EN
June 10, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 24


Air pollution in India’s cities is a well-known threat to urban populations. But new models of air pollution exposure suggests that residents in rural as well as urban areas of northern India die prematurely because of this threat. “Though the sources may be different, the results are the same—high mortality linked to circulatory and respiratory problems,” say the researchers, led by Alexandra Karambelas of the Earth Institute at Columbia University (Environ. Res. Lett. 2018, DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aac24d). The major source of rural air pollution in India is residential burning of wood and other biomass. Urban sources come from fossil fuel combustion for transportation, industry, and electricity generation. The scientists modeled concentrations of fine particles and ground-level ozone in the Indo-Gangetic Plain region. They then extrapolated premature mortality rates using data from the Global Burden of Disease, a worldwide consortium that measures the health effects of pollutants and other adverse factors. Pollution in rural and urban areas each causes 5.4 premature deaths per 10,000 people annually in northern India. This translates to 383,600 deaths in rural areas and 117,200 deaths in urban areas, they found.


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