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Air Pollution Could Cause Over 500,000 Premature Deaths in India

FILE - An Indian woman crosses a road as vehicles move through morning smog on the last day of a two-week experiment to reduce the number of cars to fight pollution in New Delhi, Jan. 15, 2016.

Air pollution could lead to 570,000 premature deaths in India, according to a new report.

Furthermore, the researchers say, the problem likely costs the Indian economy hundreds of billions of dollars annually.

Air pollution has been a public health concern in India for years, but in February, a report by Greenpeace said it surpassed China in the quantity of fine particulate matter in the air. It found there were 128 micrograms of fine particulate matter in New Delhi’s air. By comparison, Washington, DC, had 12. The World Health Organization recommends no more than 10 micrograms. The report said the “Indo-Gangetic” region, the north of the country, had the most pollution.

For the new study, researchers at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, and the US National Center for Atmospheric Research created computer simulations using 2011 data, and found that air pollution could kill more than 570,000 people prematurely.

According to The Washington Post, researchers not involved with the study said that was in line with models they had worked on.

However, Michael Jerrett, chair of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, told the Washington Post that there’s no way to really count the people who die because of air pollution in India because the models use “concrete observations” about the effects of air pollution on health from Europe and North America, where pollution levels are relatively low.

“We don’t have any epidemiological studies from China or India that look at the long-term effects of air pollution on mortality,” he told the paper.

Nevertheless, he added that the modeling used in the India study, published in the Geophysical Research Letters journal, is one of the only options until there are better statistics on the actual effects of air pollution.