The death toll from air pollution is seeing an alarming rise in Bangladesh

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In 2019, some 173,500 people died from diseases caused by air pollution

Bangladesh has seen an alarming increase in deaths from air pollution in recent years.

The country recorded a total of 173,500 deaths in 2019 due to air pollution, which exceeds 50,000 more than in 2017, according to a global report on air pollution related to the health load. In 2017, the death toll was 123,000 in the country.

The Institute for Health Effects and the Institute for Health Metrics and Assessment, based in the United States, released on Wednesday the report entitled “State of Global Air 2020” under the project of global disease burden .

Bangladesh is the ninth among the top ten countries with the highest level of outdoor environmental particulate matter (PM 2.5), very small with 2.5 micrometers in diameter or less, produced by all kinds of common combustion in urban and rural places.

PM 2.5, which is capable of penetrating deep into the airways and causing serious damage to health, caused 74,000 deaths in Bangladesh. Household air pollution from solid fuel accounted for 94,800 deaths, while the rest of the deaths were due to ozone exposure.

The country is also the fourth among the top ten countries with the highest exposure to ozone and the eleventh among the 17 countries with the highest exposure to air pollution.

In the South Asian region, more than 2.1 million people died due to air pollution, with Bangladesh the third largest.

In India, 1,667,000 people died last year, followed by Pakistan with 235,700 deaths, Bangladesh with 173,500 deaths and Nepal with 42,100 deaths from air pollution.

Worldwide, air pollution caused 6.7 million deaths last year and lost 213 million years of healthy living, according to the latest report.

Among all risk factors for mortality, air pollution ranks fourth in the world, surpassed only by high blood pressure (10.8 million), tobacco use (8.71 million) and poor nutrition (7, 94 million). Deaths caused by air pollution are five times higher than traffic collisions (1.28 million) worldwide.

Air pollution can cause diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, ischemic heart disease, low respiratory infections, lung cancer, stroke and many more.

In 2019, air pollution contributed to nearly 500,000 deaths among babies in their first month of life. It accounts for 20% of newborn deaths worldwide, mainly related to complications such as low birth weight and preterm birth.

What the authorities say

Ziaul Haque, director (air quality management) of the environment department, said: “I have not read the report in detail. That is why I cannot comment on it.”

“We closed 700 brick kilns from December last year to March this year. In 2025, bricks will not be used in any type of construction work, except in road construction. Everyone will have to use more environmentally friendly blocks than brick, ”he said.

“In addition, following the guidelines of the High Court, we drafted and distributed a guideline, where we defined what functions the various ministries and departments will have to stop air pollution,” Ziaul Haque added.

“If everything we plan is implemented in the right way, we may expect a positive change in air quality,” he mentioned.

Forecast of more deaths in the coming years

The international independent research organization, Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), and Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) jointly presented a study on May 5 this year, entitled “Air Quality, the health and toxic impacts of the proposed coal cluster in Payra, Bangladesh “.

According to the study, emissions of air pollutants from seven plants in the payra cluster would be responsible for the projected deaths of 18,000 to 34,000 in Bangladesh during its 30-year lifespan.

Air pollution, especially the presence of particles in the air, reduces the life expectancy of Bangladeshis by an average of seven years, according to a study by the University of Chicago’s Institute for Energy Policy on July 28th.

Another report, entitled “Air Quality, Health and Environmental Impacts of the Proposed Coal Energy Cluster in the Chittagong Region, Bangladesh”, was presented jointly by CREA and BAPA on 22 September. .

According to a recent study, air pollution from coal-fired power plants in the Chittagong region could cause 30,139 deaths in 30 years.

Source of air pollution

According to the research results available so far, brick kilns cause 58% of air pollution in Dhaka. Road dust and bare ground cause 18% of pollution, vehicles 10% and 14% come from other sources.

According to a study by the Institute for Energy Policy at the University of Chicago, 25% of particulate matter (PM) pollution comes from vehicles, 20% from firewood and coal, 15% from power plants, and industry, 22% of other human activities. and 18% from natural sources worldwide.

Dr Ahmad Kamruzzaman Majumder, chair of the environmental sciences department at Stamford University and also joint secretary of BAPA, said: “We need to re-identify the sources of air pollution and take strict measures to reduce pollution from the sources. So we can get a good result. “

“Pollution from coal-based vehicles and power plants is emerging as a major source of pollution in Bangladesh,” he added.