The entire globe is wrapped up by the sheath of air pollution. It is among the leading causes of death globally. But did you know that it is causing a colossal economic crisis as well? Air pollution spells trouble, especially for a developing nation like India. Read more to find out about the health and economic analysis of deaths due to air pollution in India.

The intricacy of air pollution has clasped the entire globe and clenched its fist firmly. However, it is a battle with a foe that we can triumph over.

The Study

Most of the risks and hazards related to air pollution are quantifiable. We can assess and mitigate the impact that air pollution creates. Recently, the Lancet Planet Health journal published a report titled- Health and economic impact of air pollution in the states of India: the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019.

The report quantifies and gives the gist of the health- and economy-related data. This data rightfully raises concern over the adverse impacts of air pollution that are spreading as wildfires do. 

Where do the air pollutants come from?

Ambient air pollution, household pollution, and ozone pollution are the three main types of pollution. They have different sources and affect us in varied ways.

Sources of outdoor (ambient) pollution are but are not limited to commercial biomass burning, industrial emissions, coal-burning for energy production, windblown mineral dust, construction activities, brick kilns, waste burning, vehicular emissions, agricultural stubble burning, and diesel generator (DG sets). 

Ozone pollution occurs when emissions from vehicles, power plants, factories, and other sources come in contact with hydrocarbons from various sources in the presence of sunlight.

Household (indoor) pollution is majorly caused by the persistent use of solid fuels for cooking purposes.

How does air pollution affect the economy?

Air pollution does not just affect the health of an individual or a community, but it also disrupts the functioning of a country. It reduces overall productivity and leads to a decrease in the supply of labour. It all translates into elevated expenditure in health care due to the rise in morbidities. Therefore, economic growth takes a blow reflected in the disability-adjusted life years (DALY) and mortalities.

Nation-wide statistics of India

India has an exponential trajectory for the economy and development. However, being a fast-growing developing economy comes with a cost as fluctuating air quality. According to the study, India suffered an estimated economic loss of 36.8 billion USD due to air pollution in 2019. This figure accounts for approximately 1.4% of the GDP in the same year. The premature deaths due to air pollution caused a loss of 28.8 billion USD. The morbidities accounted for losses worth 8 billion USD. 

Deaths due to air pollution in India in 2019

Deaths attributable to air pollution in India in 2019.

In 2019, air pollution was responsible for around 1.67 million deaths in India. This number is equivalent to 17.8% of the total deaths in the country. Out of those, 0.98 million deaths are attributable to ambient particulate pollution, while household pollution caused 0.61 million deaths.

Going by the figures, there has been a 64.2% decline in the death rate due to household air pollution between the years 1990 and 2019. India has been instrumental in taking state- and national-level initiatives to ameliorate household air pollution. The Indian government launched Unnat Chulha Abhiyan in June 2014, Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana in May 2016, and National Infrastructure Pipeline Project that has contributed to this decline.

However, there is a 115.3% elevation in the death rate attributable to ambient particulate pollution and a 139.2% rise in those attributable to ambient ozone pollution in the same period. 

State-wise statistics of India

State-wise distribution of air pollution statistics in India

A: Population-weighted PM2.5 exposure (ug/m3) B: Proportion of population using solid fuels (%) C: Population-weighted ozone concentration (ppb) D: Economic Loss as a percentage of state GDP

Reportedly, the state-wise variation in economic loss ranged from 0.67% to 2.15% of the GDP. The low per-capita GDP states incurred the maximum loss. The worst-affected states were Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh. The national capital, Delhi, bore the highway per-capita economic loss due to air pollution, followed by its neighbour state of Haryana. Thus, we can infer that the impact of air pollution is more evident in north India.

Dissecting the health aspect of deaths due to air pollution

Health aspect of deaths due to air pollution

Causes of Deaths attributable to Air Pollution in India in 2019.

The report also delves into the causes of death. As per the findings, lung diseases were the top cause of deaths attributable to air pollution in India. Individually, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) was the cause of 32.5% of the total deaths due to air pollution. Ischaemic heart diseases (29.2%), followed by stroke (16.2%), were the other two most prominent causes of deaths due to air pollution.


If not mitigated timely with suitable measures, extensive air pollution could impede India’s ambition of a $5 trillion economy by 2024. What India needs are state-level air quality management plans and their stringent enforcement. It is essential to silence this silent pandemic with effective strategies as soon as possible. 

(Source of Images- Lancet Journal)

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