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India ranks top in pollution-linked deaths: Report

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Despite ban, Deepavali fireworks cover New Delhi in toxic haze

NEW DELHI: India's capital New Delhi was shrouded in a thick toxic haze yesterday after a night of frenzied Deepavali fireworks sent the air quality plummeting despite a ban on sale of fireworks.

India's Supreme Court had banned the sale of firecrackers ahead of the Hindu festival of lights to prevent a repeat of last year's post-Deepavali pollution crises that left Delhi's 20 million residents gasping for weeks.

But late on Thursday, the readings for the pollutants hovered around 1,100 microgram per cubic metre in some parts of the city - 11 times above the prescribed air quality levels of the World Health Organisation.

Air quality data from Delhi Pollution Control Committee showed pollution levels in a crowded neighbourhood hit 1,179 at midnight as firework displays reached a crescendo.

In astudy released in The Lancet medical journal yesterday, scientists said pollution caused 9 million deaths in 2015, three times more than Aids, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

The Lancet Commission on pollution and health said 2.5 million people in India die early because of pollution, followed by China with 1.8 million deaths.

In rapidly industrialising countries such as India, Pakistan, China and Bangladesh, pollution is linked to as many as a quarter of all fatalities.

Dirty air - caused by everything from transport and industry to indoor fires - was the biggest contributor linked to 6.5 million deaths, it said.


The next biggest was polluted water that spread gastrointestinal diseases and parasitic infections and killed 1.8 million.

Mr Karti Sandilya, one of the authors and an adviser to environmental group Pure Earth, said: "With globalisation, mining and manufacturing have shifted to poorer countries, where environmental regulations and enforcement can be lax.

"People in poorer countries are more exposed to air pollution and less able to protect themselves from exposure, as they walk, cycle or ride the bus to workplaces that may also be polluted."

In contrast, many people in developed countries commute to air-conditioned offices in air-conditioned cars, he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"Pollution is much more than an environmental challenge - it is a profound and pervasive threat that affects many aspects of human health and well-being," said Professor Philip Landrigan of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in the US, who co-led the study.

The research, conducted by about 40 scientists, used data from the Global Burden of Disease study from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. - WIRE SERVICES