The number of deaths attributable to PM2.5 in Delhi is 106 out of 1,00,000 people in 2019, according to the ‘Air Quality and Health in Cities’ report released Wednesday. The report is published by the Health Effects Institute, a non-profit research institute based in the USA.

The figure for Delhi is well above the global median of PM2.5 attributable death rates in cities in 2019 — 58 per 1,00,000 people. Delhi also topped a list of 103 cities across the world, with the highest annual average PM2.5 exposure level in 2019, according to the report.

The list of 103 cities comprised the most populous cities across 21 regions in the world — South Asia, North Africa/Middle East, Latin America/Caribbean, Sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe/Central Asia, East Asia/Pacific, and High Income (including Western Europe, High-Income North America, High-income Asia Pacific) regions were further sub-divided into 21 regions.

Data released on the State of Global Air website showed that the number of deaths attributable to PM2.5 in Delhi was 29,900 in 2019. This is up from 21,560 in 2010. According to a note on how the burden of disease attributable to PM2.5 is estimated, “deaths from six diseases were included to estimate the burden on health associated with PM2.5: ischemic heart disease, stroke, lower respiratory infections, lung cancer, type 2 diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease”. Population exposure to PM2.5, population size, and “country-specific data on underlying rates of disease and death for each pollution-linked disease” is further used for calculation.

Delhi’s population-weighted annual average PM2.5 exposure in 2019 was 110 µg/m3. Kolkata came second on the list with 84 µg/m3, followed by Kano (Nigeria), Lima (Peru), and Dhaka (Bangladesh). The PM2.5 annual average concentration in 2010 in Delhi was slightly higher — 114.9 µg/m3. The World Health Organisation guidelines for annual PM2.5 concentration is 5 µg/m3.

The report used data from 2010 to 2019, and focused on PM2.5 and nitrogen dioxide concentrations, identifying these as the “most harmful pollutants”.

Between 2010 and 2019, “India and Indonesia have seen the most severe increase in PM2.5 pollution,” according to the report. Of the 7,239 cities that the report looked at, India is home to 18 of the 20 cities with the “most severe increase in PM2.5 pollution from 2010 to 2019.”

Data on the State of Global Air website showed that India’s annual average population weight PM2.5 concentration in 2019 was 83.2 µg/m3, which is well above 76.7 µg/m3 in 2010. This is even higher than the 65.6 µg/m3 recorded in 1995.

The report stated, “While exposures to fine particulate or PM2.5 pollution tend to be higher in cities located in low- and middle-income countries, exposure to nitrogen dioxide, or NO2, is high across cities in high-income as well as low- and middle-income countries.” Delhi fared better with regard to nitrogen dioxide levels. The annual average nitrogen dioxide concentration in Delhi fell from 33.4 µg/m3 in 2011, to 25.6 µg/m3 in 2019, according to data on the State of Global Air website. Nitrogen dioxide is generated by the burning of fuel. Sources include power plants, vehicular emissions and industries.

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