Each year, ground-level air pollution in India kills crops that could have fed 94 million people.
That is the assessment of a new study of the effects of high concentrations of ozone, which is formed by emissions from vehicles, factories and cook stoves. The pollutant can stunt plant growth, and injure and kill vegetation.
The study's authors used crop production data for 2005 to estimate the damage to the nation's major crops. In Geophysical Research Letters, they report that ground-level ozone pollution damaged six million metric tons of wheat, rice, soybean and cotton crops that year.
Lead author Sachin Ghude says the lost wheat and rice could have fed one-third of the 270 million Indians that live in poverty. He and his colleagues estimated the economic loss in 2005 at nearly $1.3 billion.
Other satellite-based studies indicate that ozone levels have increased over India in the past two decades.