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An environmental justice analysis of air pollution in India
Authors: Priyanka N. deSouza, Ekta Chaudhary, Sagnk Dey, Soohyeon Ko, Jeremy Németh, Sarath Guttikunda, Sourangsu Chowdhury, Patrick Kinney, S. V. Subramanian, Michelle L. Bell, and Rockli Kim
Source: Scientific Reports, Voume 13, Article 16690; DOI:
Topic(s): Pollution
Country: Asia
Published: OCT 2023
Abstract: Due to the lack of timely data on socioeconomic factors (SES), little research has evaluated if socially disadvantaged populations are disproportionately exposed to higher PM2.5 concentrations in India. We fill this gap by creating a rich dataset of SES parameters for 28,081 clusters (villages in rural India and census-blocks in urban India) from the National Family and Health Survey (NFHS-4) using a precision-weighted methodology that accounts for survey-design. We then evaluated associations between total, anthropogenic and source-specific PM2.5 exposures and SES variables using fully-adjusted multilevel models. We observed that SES factors such as caste, religion, poverty, education, and access to various household amenities are important risk factors for PM2.5 exposures. For example, we noted that a unit standard deviation increase in the cluster-prevalence of Scheduled Caste and Other Backward Class households was significantly associated with an increase in total-PM2.5 levels corresponding to 0.127 µg/m3 (95% CI 0.062 µg/m3, 0.192 µg/m3) and 0.199 µg/m3 (95% CI 0.116 µg/m3, 0.283 µg/m3, respectively. We noted substantial differences when evaluating such associations in urban/rural locations, and when considering source-specific PM2.5 exposures, pointing to the need for the conceptualization of a nuanced EJ framework for India that can account for these empirical differences. We also evaluated emerging axes of inequality in India, by reporting associations between recent changes in PM2.5 levels and different SES parameters.