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WASHINGTON: Pakistan is the second on a list of 10 countries with the highest mortality rate due to air pollution, while India ties with China for the first place, says a report released on Wednesday.

A total of 2.4 million people (1.2m each) died of air pollution in China and India in 2017, when a survey was conducted.

India, however, was ahead of China in the percentage of population exposed to household air pollution. In India 60 per cent people were exposed to household air pollution, 32 per cent in China, 79 per cent in Bangladesh and 52 per cent in Pakistan.

Polluted air cited as the fifth leading cause of early death worldwide

In Pakistan 128,000 deaths were attributed to air pollution, 124,000 in Indonesia, 123,000 in Bangladesh, 114,000 in Nigeria, 108,000 in the United States, 99,000 in Russia, 66,000 in Brazil, and 64,000 in the Philippines.

The report — “State of Global Air” — by the US-based Health Effects Institute and the University of British Columbia identifies air pollution as the fifth leading cause of early death worldwide, responsible for more deaths than malaria, road accidents, malnutrition or alcoholism. Only dietary risks, high blood pressure, tobacco and high fasting-plasma glucose are more injurious than air pollution.

The World Health Organisation’s Air Quality Guideline sets 2.5 pollutants per micrometre (PM) as the upper limit for humans. PM2.5 pollution contributed to nearly 3m early deaths in 2017.

More than half of this disease’s burden fell on people living in China and India.

Exposure to PM2.5 was found to be the third leading risk factor globally for type 2 diabetes deaths, after high blood sugar and excessive body weight.

The study includes hypothetical increases in life expectancy among the 11 most populous countries if PM2.5 concentrations were limited to the WHO Air Quality Guideline. Bangladesh would have the highest expected gain of nearly 1.3 years, followed by India, Nigeria and Pakistan with gains of about one year of life expectancy.

The percentages of population living in areas above the guideline ranged from 92 per cent in Russia to 100 per cent in China, India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Children in South Asia would have their lives cut short by 30 months because of a combination of outdoor air pollution and dirty indoor air.

A study last October from the WHO found that exposure to toxic air both indoors and out kills some 600,000 children under the age of 15 each year. It found that children are often more vulnerable to the impact of air pollution since they breath more rapidly than adults, and thus absorb more pollutants at a time when their brains and bodies are still developing.

Published in Dawn, April 4th, 2019