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India's poorest 9 times more likely to die of air pollution than the rich: study

The findings add to the mounting evidence proving that the burden of environmental disruption remains the highest on the group with the least actual contribution. 

Air pollution impacts our life in more ways than we can count. From chronic asthma, lung problems, cardiovascular disease, cognitive disruption, infertility, pregnancy loss to irregular and painful periods – the perils of air pollution exposure have been widely researched and proven in studies.

SEE MORE Blame air pollution for your painful period cramps, say scientists

But in India, there is one group that is disproportionately impacted by a two-pronged attack of air pollution. A new study says that the poorest households in India are at risk from both inhaled smoke produced by solid fuels used for cooking, and much higher exposure to vehicular and industrial emissions.

Published in the journal Nature Sustainability, the study estimates that mortality risk due to this double burden is at least nine times higher for the poorest in India. Nearly 70 per cent of the Indian population still depends on solid fuels for cooking which contributes to household air pollution (or HAP).

While in developed countries, fossil fuel use for power, industry and land transportation are the leading contributors to PM2.5 pollution, in India, HAP makes up 40 per cent of overall outdoor pollution, noted the study.

But with 35 of the world’s 50 most polluted cities in India, the contribution to air pollution from urban households is still much higher. In fact, the contribution of the highest-income group to indirect emissions is many times greater than that from the ‘poorest 10 per cent of households.’

SEE MORE 30% deaths in India caused by air pollution from fossil fuels, Harvard study finds

The research suggests that while industry‐wide controls can reduce inequity in ambient pollution exposure, as of now, the use of clean cooking fuels is the most effective way to reduce the number of premature deaths from air pollution in India.

All in all, the findings add to the mounting evidence proving that the burden of environmental disruption remains the highest on the group with the least actual contribution.

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