At least 3,000 people in Delhi die every year prematurely because of exposure to high air pollution and around 55% of Delhites live in high exposure area, a yet to be released study has found.
The preliminary findings of the study done by US based Health Effects Institute and Delhi based The Energy Resources Institute were released at a seminar in Pune on January 20 and the final report is expected in first week of March.
The study said the respirable suspended particulate matter (PM 10) of 300 micro grams in cubic meter area (ug/m3) (average level in Delhi) increases the rate of premature deaths because of air pollution by 3%.
While impact of air pollution on health is widely recognized, the study for the first time present a figure of at least 3,000 deaths in the national capital every year due to ailments such as asthma, respiratory diseases, heart attacks and cancer triggered by air pollution. Every year, one lakh people die in Delhi.
"Using the Delhi results, risk of premature mortality would be approximately three percent higher due to air pollution," said the presentation made by institute's president Dr Dan Greenbaum.
The national standard is 100 ug/m3 and PM 10 in Delhi increases up to 800 ug/m3 during winter months. For every 10 ug/m3 increase in PM level over 300 ug/m3, there is 0.15% to 1.17 % increase in the death rate, the study said.
In an email response to HT, Greenbaum said: "The preliminary estimate for Delhi was based on generally accepted international methods…A more fine grained estimate with the aim of educating people about impact of air pollution will released in March."
The findings did not sound strange to Dr V K Vijayan, director of Patel Chest Institute, who had seen an increase in patients with ailments caused by increase in air pollution. "In high exposure areas air pollution can also cause death," he said.
The study had also said that 55% of Delhi's population living within 500 meters of two ring roads and 50 meters of major roads are exposed most to high air pollution in Delhi. "It is primarily because they are most vulnerable to inhale emissions from vehicles or other sources on road," said Anumita Roy Choudhury, associate director with the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).
An environment ministry study released in January had attributed roadside dust as major source of PM 10 pollution in Delhi but CSE on Tuesday said that if roadside dust is not considered, vehicles are major contributor to air pollution in Delh.
The study also found that Ozone, which causes inflammation in respiratory tract and problems in breathing, was rising in Delhi. Its primary cause was rise in nitrogen dioxide emissions, whose source is primarily from diesel vehicles.