Exposure to ambient air pollution causes over 4 million premature deaths each year, with 25% of this burden in India. Half of the world’s 20 most polluted cities are in India and poor air quality there is predicted to worsen in the future. Despite this importance there has been comparatively little air quality research focused on India and our knowledge of the sources and processes causing air pollution here is limited. It is critical to understand the contribution of different emission sources (e.g., traffic, industry) to ambient air pollution to design effective policies to reduce this substantial disease burden.

A study by Luke Conibear from Prof Dominick Spracklen’s group at the University of Leeds is the first to combine high resolution computer simulations with extensive observations to estimate the contribution of different emission sources to ambient air pollution and the related disease burden from exposure across India. The researchers used N8 HPC to run a numerical weather prediction model to simulate air quality over India. In their paper, recently published in Nature Communications, they demonstrate that combustion of solid fuels for household cooking and heating is the dominant source of ambient particulate matter pollution across India. Reducing emissions from this source provides much larger benefits to health compared to control of traffic or industry. Luke’s study provides the evidence needed to design effective pollution control efforts in India.