While Indian cities are still grappling with the impacts of severe particulate matter (PM) pollution, a new report has raised the flag on ozone levels (O3) too.
'The Cost of Air Pollution', a report by the World Bank and Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) released on sep 8 Thursday , estimates that the concentrations of O3 has increased by 10 to 20% in India between 1990 and 2013. The trend is similar in neighboring countries and in Brazil, while a declining course was seen in the US and Indonesia, among others.
High ozone levels are not only associated with serious health impacts like reduced lung function, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), aggravating asthma and respiratory conditions, but also with widespread crop loss.
The study also estimates that total deaths due to increase in exposure to O3 increased by 50% between 1990 and 2013 in South Asia. For this report, the health and economic burden of O3 is only based on COPD incidence from it. Total deaths due to exposure to PM2.5 have also increased in South Asia during the same phase, but not as steeply as with O3.
interestingly, even though the cost of O3 related premature deaths are far lower than that of PM2.5 (both household and outdoor), O3 associated economic or welfare losses for South Asia are equivalent to that of North America. The welfare losses due to O3 exposure are to the tune of 0.4% of gross domestic product (GDP) equivalent, the report states.If you consider man days lost, it's about 0.09% of GDP equivalent, it says.
Air quality experts said O3 could be a serious concern soon. "Even before we could deal with health damage from particulate pollution we are falling into the pincer grip of ozone pollution that damages both lungs and crops. This is also the sign that emissions of toxic gases are increasing rapidly in our country . Keep in mind that for estimating health damage from ozone this report has only considered chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. The actual cost of health damage could be way higher," said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, head of Centre for Science and Environment's clean air programme.
Ozone is not directly emitted from any source; it is created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds in the presence of sunlight. It's mainly released from combustion sources which includes vehicles and industries.