Some 476,000 infants across the world died from the adverse effects of exposure to air pollution in 2019, most of them are from India and sub-Saharan Africa, a new global study has found. Three quarters of those deaths were related to the burning of poor-quality fuels for cooking.
More than 116,000 Indian infants died from air pollution in the first month of life, and the corresponding figure was 236,000 in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the State of Global Air 2020. According to Reuters, the estimates were produced by the US-based Health Effects Institute and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation's Global Burden of Disease project.
The authors wrote they relied on a growing body of evidence linking mothers' exposures during pregnancy to air pollution with the increased risk of their infants being born too small (low birth weight) or too early (preterm birth).
"Although there has been slow and steady reduction in household reliance on poor-quality fuels, the air pollution from these fuels continues to be a key factor in the deaths of these youngest infants," said Dan Greenbaum, president of Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
The new report suggests a especially high risk for infants born in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, he added.
Overall, the report found that air pollution led to 6.7 million deaths worldwide in 2019, making it the fourth leading cause of death. The authors added that while the Covid-19 pandemic had led to significant societal and personal costs, "many countries around the world have experienced blue skies and starry nights, but these gains were short lived."