India has surpassed China as the most polluted nation in the world with about 1.1 million people dying from PM2.5-related health problems — and the death toll continues to climb, according to the State of Global Air Report 2017.
Since 2010, air pollution levels have risen sharply in India and Bangladesh, but the number has remained stable in China, according to the joint study by the Health Effects Institute in Boston and the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle.
However, the report finds that both China and India accounted for more than half of the world’s pollution, and between 1990 and 2015, the number of smog-related deaths has risen to 2.2 million.
Measured per head of population, India has 14.7 ozone-related deaths for every 100,000 people, compared with China’s 5.9, reported The Washington Post.
An increase in car ownership, coal-fired power plant emissions and other industrial facilities, and wood and sewage-fueled fires have all contributed to the problem.
According to Dan Greenbaum, president of the Health Effects Institute, the air pollution rate in China has stabilized after a campaign to cut down on coal-run power plants and other pollution-control efforts.
He said India has yet to address high levels of coal emissions and standards for vehicles.
“(India) has got a longer way to go, and they still appear to have some ministers who say there is not a strong connection between air pollution and mortality in spite of quite a lot of evidence,” Greenbaum told Reuters.
Anil Madhav Dave, India’s environment minister, said last week that “there is no conclusive data available” to prove pollution and mortality are linked.
Authorities in China have also been reluctant to link air pollution and higher mortality rates, with the country’s health ministry saying there was “no data” linking smog to cancer.
Meanwhile, the U.S. and European Commission have made significant progress in reducing fine particulate pollution since 1990, according to the report.
The U.S. has cut about 27% in the average annual exposure to PM2.5, with smaller reductions in Europe, but nearly 88,000 Americans and 258,000 Europeans are still exposed to particulate levels today, reported the New York Times.