WHO director Maria Neira said, there is a need to take “urgent action” to deal with air pollution in many cities of India. The level of toxic air is higher than the recommended guidelines that could have a major impact on people’s health. Various studies conducted by WHO and others published in journals such as The Lancet showed a link between air pollution & premature deaths in India.
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However, Prakash Javadekar the Union Environment Minister told the Parliament that there are no Indian studies to show any link between pollution and shortening of lifespan.
The minister told the Parliament, “The studies conducted in India have not shown a direct correlation of shortening of life because of pollution. Let us not create a fear psychosis among people.”
Commenting on the minister’s speech, Neira told PTI,” there is very strong scientific evidence is telling us that exposure to air pollution is having a major impact on people’s health”.
Neira said, “Independently of which methodology is used or what are the estimates, it is urgent to take action because the levels of air pollution in certain cities in India are very high, and this is having an impact on people’s health.”
She also said, “Therefore, we urge governments to take measures to reduce pollution, to reduce the massive damage this pollution is causing to the health of their citizens, particularly in those cities where the levels of air pollution are far beyond those guidelines recommended by the WHO.”
In India, there is a higher proportion of global health loss due to air pollution than the proportion of the global population showed a study. Also, this study published in The Lancet showed 1/8 death in India in 2017 is due to air pollution.
The toxic air is the leading risk factor for deaths in the country accounting for around 12.4 lakh deaths in India in 2017, termed the study.
Additional, the studies showed that the average life expectancy has been 1.7 years higher if the level of pollution were less than the minimal level responsible for causing health loss.
The death related to air pollution can be reduced by around 15 percent considering the WHO air quality guidelines estimates, reducing annual average fine particulate matter (PM2.5) concentrations from levels of 35 microgrammes per cubic meter (g/m3) to 10 g/m3.
The government should take urgent action to reduce the level of air pollution as that will result in major health benefits, urged Neira.
She said, “We are confident that based on the fact that this pollution can be reduced, Indian government, which has an enormous amount of expertise and competence will be doing their best to tackle the sources of pollution, to reduce the toxic levels that the citizens are exposed to at the moment, and start to monitor how the health situation of their citizens will be improved”.
There are available evidence, interventions, and the plan of action to tackle air pollution, Neira said.
She added, “It is just the question of deciding to implement it as soon as possible because the more we delay those measures; the more we will have problems”.
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