Friedrich Nietzsche in Thus Spoke Zarathustra said, “ One must be sea, to receive a polluted stream without becoming impure.”

Nietzsche’s words are true in every sense. We as human beings forget the reactions to our actions and expect no repercussions, however, reality is not quite the same.

The amount of pollution being emitted is growing by leaps and bound, nonetheless, so are the damages being caused by it. The lancet commission on pollution and health in its report ranked India number one country in pollution related deaths worldwide. With a whooping 2.5 million deaths in 2015, India managed to beat even China with these rates, China reported about 1.8 million deaths. India has managed to account for about 28% of the nine million deaths caused by pollution. Almost 25% of the deaths caused in India during the year 2015 were caused by pollution. 

Pollution has said to be more responsible for deaths worldwide than those caused by:

  • A high sodium diet i.e 4.1 million deaths 
  • Obesity with 4 million deaths
  • Alcohol with 2.3 million deaths
  • Road accidents causing 1.4 million deaths
  • Child or maternal malnutrition causing 1.4 million deathsIt is also said to be 3 times more responsible than deaths caused by AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. 
In a report published by the World Bank and the University of Washington as a joint study showcased that between the years 1990 and 2013, there was a 94% increase premature deaths due to air pollution. Due to PM 2.5 air pollution suspension, damages increased by 63% to a total of $ 3.50 trillion. Damages from pollution caused household cooking with solid fuels, there was a four times increase which amounted to a total $ 1.5 trillion.

A UNICEF report titled ‘Danger in the Air’, showed that 17 million infants are exposed to air pollution standards are six times higher than international standards. What is most alarming is that 75% of these infants are in the Indian subcontinent. India unfortunately again tops the list of countries with babies at risk and yet again only after China. 

These hazardous levels of pollution are causing dysfunctionalities of the brain. The report showed that these affected infants would face low verbal and non verbal IQ, leading to lower grade point averages accompanied by neurological behavioural issues. The author of the report added, that toxic air pollution would impair children’s learning, motor and linguistic skills. 

Motor vehicles are one of the most primal source of carbon monoxide that binds with haemoglobin with an 250 times affinity that of oxygen, thereby causing defects in the systemic delivery of oxygen to issues. The total cost of damages in the year 2013 was estimated to be about 8.5% of the gross domestic product (GDP). 

Since years, we have observed various damages being caused by various outlets of pollutions. However, the latest trend has been the damages caused to the brain both in fetus and as infants and children, the UNICEF report also pointed out that air pollution inhaled during pregnancy damages the growth of the brain in fetus, again maring the development of the brain.  

The list of damages are endless backed by never ending statistics, however, of what use are these numbers if they don’t nudge solutions for the same. Various, systems can be implemented such as plantation of green belts, installations of air cleaning systems within vehicles and air purifiers at large in open societies. The policy makers need to be made aware of this ill- effects of pollution to be nudged towards better policy implementation.

(This article has been contributed by Tanvi Bagadiya who is pursing BSc Economics from Symbiosis School of Economics, Pune)