Alarming Outdoor- Indoor Air Pollution in India & Its Neglected Outcomes

Dr. AK Agarwal, S K Jindal, Dr. Sachin, Nishant Gupta, Research & Development, River Engineering Pvt. Lt., Ecotech-3, Greater Noida, UP

2022-02-15 15:50:51



Certainly, air pollution remained most serious health threat globally for decades. It has caused substantial harm to human health, nature (environment) and economy. World Health Organization data showed exposure to air pollution cause 7 million premature deaths every year.

WHO data has also been revealed that almost global population (99%) breathes air that exceeds WHO guideline air quality limits [1]. Albeit, air pollution related data and census are more frightening in India. Estimated 1·67 million deaths were attributable to air pollution in India, during 2019.  The majority of these deaths were from ambient particulate matter pollution (0·98 million) and household air pollution (0·61 million) [3]. Studies also indicated that Air Quality usually more worst among the north Indian states as compare to south. Exposure to ambient particulate matter ranged from 15·8 μg/m3 in Kerala, to 217·6 μg/m3, in Delhi, 13·8 times difference; nevertheless, an average PM2.5 concentration in India is 91·7 μg/m3 still violating the national and international air quality standards [3].

Not only health but every aspect of life may suffer by air pollution and its corollary outcomes. Let’s take a look on recent scientific findings on air pollution impact on India:

Factors behind to making India, world’s most Polluted Country

Unfortunately, air pollution hitting most to the low and middle income countries like India, where air quality remained worst so far. India is emerging as the one of the most polluted country in the world. Despite various environmental policies and acts there is no significant sign of air quality improvement. India is one of the fastest developing country and factors like rapid industrialization, transportation, anthropogenic activities such as over construction, deforestation, uncontrolled population etc. are the most important factors, that’s contributing to increase the air pollution.

Air pollution Impact on Health, Environment & Economy

25 years data (from 1990 to 2015) of Global Burden of Diseases Study, LANCET suggested ambient air pollution contributed to the global burden of disease which increased immensely over the past 25 years. Researches already suggested that various air pollutants such particulate matter (PM2.5, PM10), ozone (O?), nitrogen dioxide (NO?) sulfur dioxide (SO?) and carbon monoxide (CO), aromatic hydrocarbons, heavy metals, infectious biological contaminates, allergens and dust may be associated with several mild to life threating health conditions; in fact,  known to cause damage all organs  of human body. Air pollutant PM2.5 one of the most studied hazardous air pollutant and diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), aggravated asthma, respiratory allergies, lower respiratory infection, lung cancer, ischaemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease are the most frequent air pollution associated health conditions [1, 2]. The total health expenditure in India is 3·8% of GDP, while the economic loss due to lost output from premature deaths and morbidity attributable to air pollution estimated in this study was 1·36% of GDP, indicating that the total economic impact of air pollution is high[2]. The economic loss due to lost output from premature deaths attributable to air pollution in India in 2019 was US$28·8 billion and from morbidity attributable to air pollution was $8·0 billion. Of the total economic loss of $36·8 billion attributable to air pollution in India in 2019, 36·6% was from lung diseases, which included COPD (21·1%), lower respiratory infections (14·2%), and lung cancer (1·2%), and the rest was from ischaemic heart disease (24·9%), stroke (14·1%), diabetes (8·4%), neonatal disorders (13·3%), and cataract (2·7%).[3]. So not only health but GDP and environment are also under concern due to the air pollution in India. 

Act Now: Steps towards the Air Quality Improvement

The nature of air pollution is fastidious, depends on various factors described as above. Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) initiated an important National Clean Air Programme in 2017 (NCAP) to tackle the air pollution problem across the country. The NCAP expected to achieve 20% to 30% reduction in Particulate Matter concentrations by 2024 [4, 5].  Studies indicate the burden of household (indoor) air pollution decreased remarkably in India between 1990 and 2019 [3, 5]. However, most of the country still battling to breathe clean and toxin free air as air quality still remained poor to severe, mostly in metro cities. Indoor and outdoor air pollution reducing task can be challenging and complex, luckily it may preventable and reversible. Global elimination of ambient air pollution will require courageous leadership and responsible inhabitants as well [5]. Well, only government initiatives will not sufficient to defeat this air quality havoc in India, we also need to be more responsible toward our environment. Following common steps can also make significant difference in order to curtail air pollution in India:  

Atmospheric Awareness: Since anthropogenic activities are also responsible for air pollution; especially activities like agriculture, plastic and household trash burning, traditional cooking methods can be minimize by only spreading awareness among the people.

Less Vehicles & Car Pooling: Minimal uses of gasoline, diesel vehicles, using carpooling or public transportation, promotion of electric vehicle and bicycling.

Plantation/Forestation: Plants can be a robust natural savior. Since, plants are not only known to increase oxygen level but also to remove some air pollutants. Indoor and outdoor plantation may help to reduce the certain air pollutants.

Indoor air Purification: In case of unhealthy indoor air quality, portable air cleaner may improve the indoor air quality by absorbing hazardous biological and chemical air pollutants. 


  1. WHO: Air Pollution.(2022). Retrieved from
  2. Cohen, A. J., Brauer, M., Burnett, R., Anderson, H. R., Frostad, J., Estep, K., ... & Forouzanfar, M. H. (2017). Estimates and 25-year trends of the global burden of disease attributable to ambient air pollution: an analysis of data from the Global Burden of Diseases Study 2015. The Lancet, 389(10082), 1907-1918.
  3. Pandey, A., Brauer, M., Cropper, M. L., Balakrishnan, K., Mathur, P., Dey, S., ... & Dandona, L. (2021). Health and economic impact of air pollution in the states of India: the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019. The Lancet Planetary Health, 5(1), e25-e38.
  4. Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs.( 2020 ). Retrieved from
  5. Landrigan, P. J. (2017). Air pollution and health. The Lancet Public Health2(1), e4-e5.