India is no stranger to polluted air. That’s why you see such a rise in the number of people wearing masks outdoors – just to make sure they don’t fall sick. Such is the state of things!

It may make us all, let’s say, claustrophobic to know that India is responsible for over one-fourth of the global premature deaths and diseases caused by air pollution.

Even more alarming is the fact that in 2017, one out of eight deaths in India were linked to air pollution.

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This makes it one of the leading risk factors for deaths in the country.

These facts came to light as part of the research findings of the first comprehensive estimates of reduction in life expectancy associated with air pollution in each state.

The findings, published by the India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, along with experts from over 100 Indian institutions, also revealed that 12.4 lakh deaths in India in 2017 were on account of air pollution.

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The study elaborates that in 2017, as much as 77 per cent of the population of India was exposed to ambient particulate matter PM2.5 over the limit recommended by the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

The national capital is said to rank the lowest in terms of air quality standards as the highest PM2.5 exposure level was in Delhi, with Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Haryana following close behind.

More than half of the deaths due to air pollution in India, around 6.7 lakh, were due to outdoor particulate matter air pollution while household air pollution led to around 5 lakh deaths.

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“…that air pollution is a year-round phenomenon, particularly in north India, which causes health impacts far beyond respiratory illnesses” is now being acknowledged, said the Director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, professor Randeep Guleria.

Now, here’s a fact that might leave you, um, gasping: the average life expectancy in India would have been 1.7 years higher if the air pollution level were lower.

Especially in the northern states, had pollution levels been lower, people could have lived longer by 2.5 years in Rajasthan, 2.2 years in Uttar Pradesh, and 2.1 years in Haryana.

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Well, there’s a wake-up call if you ever needed one – states should take these numbers seriously and plan their policies accordingly to reduce this slow-burning threat to human life.

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