As much as two-thirds of deaths from air pollution in India can be attributed to exhaust emissions from diesel vehicles, which were responsible for nearly 385,000 deaths in 2015, a study has found. On-road diesel vehicles were responsible for nearly half of the health impacts of air pollution from vehicles worldwide in 2015. The global cost of these transportation-attributable health impacts in 2010 and 2015 was approximately USD one trillion. Exhaust from vehicles is a major source of outdoor air pollution worldwide. The health impacts are immense but unevenly distributed, both geographically and among various segments of the transportation sector, such as light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles, shipping, and off-road machinery.
The study, by researchers from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), George Washington University, and the University of Colorado Boulder in the US, links state-of-the-art vehicle emissions, air pollution, and epidemiological models to estimate health impacts at the global, regional, national, and local levels in 2010 and 2015.
It provides the most detailed picture available to date of the global, regional, and local health impacts attributable to emissions from four transportation subsectors: on-road diesel vehicles, other on-road vehicles, shipping, and non-road mobile engines such as agricultural and construction equipment.
The research estimates that vehicle tailpipe emissions were linked to about 361,000 premature deaths from ambient PM2.5 and ozone worldwide in 2010 and about 385,000 in 2015. An estimated 70 per cent of these impacts occurred in the four largest vehicle markets in 2015: China, India, the European Union, and the US.
Exhaust from on-road diesel vehicles was responsible for nearly half of the impacts -- about 181,000 premature deaths -- worldwide, and fully two-thirds in India, France, Germany, and Italy. The global health burden of on-road diesel vehicles, including the PM2.5 and ozone impacts of all tailpipe emissions, is 68 per cent higher than previously estimated for diesel emissions. The distribution of health impacts and air pollution from transportation is influenced by policy, demographic, economic, and technological changes.
"Transportation-attributable health impacts declined in the US, European Union, and Japan as vehicle emission standards have been implemented, but these reductions have been offset by growing impacts in China, India, and other parts of the world," said Susan Afterburner, an associate professor at the George Washington.
"Unless the pace of transportation emission reductions is accelerated, these health impacts are likely to increase in the future as the population grows, ages, and becomes more urbanised," said Afterburner. "The high public health burden of diesel vehicles in Europe underscores the need for world-class emissions standards to be accompanied by robust compliance and enforcement," said Joshua Miller, a senior researcher at the ICCT.
"The long lifetime of vehicles and equipment and the increasing health burden in regions without adequate protections stress the urgency to introduce world-class standards, develop compliance programs, and adopt in-use measures that accelerate the replacement of high-emitting vehicles," said Miller.
In addition to estimated health effects on global, regional, and national scales, the study also evaluated the impacts in 100 major urban areas worldwide. The number of transportation-attributable deaths per 100,000 population in London and Paris are approximately 2 to 3 times higher than the global average.
Ambient air pollution is the leading environmental health risk factor worldwide, contributing to 3.4 million premature deaths annually from heart and lung diseases and diabetes, according to the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study 2017.