Urban versus rural health impacts attributable to PM2.5 and O3 in northern India

Karambelas, Alexandra N.; Holloway, Tracey; Kinney, Patrick L.; Fiore, Arlene M.; DeFries, Ruth S.; Kiesewetter, Gregor; Heyes, Chris

Ambient air pollution in India contributes to negative health impacts and early death. Ground-based monitors often used to quantify health impacts are located in urban regions, yet approximately 70% of India's population lives in rural communities. We simulate high-resolution concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM) and ozone from the regional Community Multi-scale Air Quality model over northern India, including updated estimates of anthropogenic emissions for transportation, residential combustion and location-based industrial and electrical generating emissions in a new anthropogenic emissions inventory. These simulations inform seasonal air quality and health impacts due to anthropogenic emissions, contrasting urban versus rural regions. For our northern India domain, we estimate 463 200 (95% confidence interval: 444 600–482 600) adults die prematurely each year from PM2.5 and that 37 800 (28 500–48 100) adults die prematurely each year from O3. This translates to 5.8 deaths per 10 000 attributable to air pollution out of an annual rate of 72 deaths per 10 000 (8.1% of deaths) using 2010 estimates. We estimate that the majority of premature deaths resulting from PM2.5 and O3 are in rural (383 600) as opposed to urban (117 200) regions, where we define urban as cities and towns with populations of at least 100 000 people. These findings indicate the need for rural monitoring and appropriate health studies to understand and mitigate the effects of ambient air pollution on this population in addition to supporting model evaluation.

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Environmental Research Letters