April 8 | 2019

Risk of acute respiratory infection from crop burning in India: estimating disease burden and economic welfare from satellite and national health survey data for 250 000 persons.

Suman Chakrabarti, Mohammed Tajuddin Khan, Avinash Kishore, Devesh Roy, Samuel P Scott.

International Journal of Epidemiology, dyz022, https://doi.org/10.1093/ije/dyz022

Published: 28 February 2019



Respiratory infections are among the leading causes of death and disability globally. Respirable aerosol particles released by agricultural crop-residue burning (ACRB), practised by farmers in all global regions, are potentially harmful to human health. Our objective was to estimate the health and economic costs of ACRB in northern India.


The primary outcome was acute respiratory infection (ARI) from India’s fourth District Level Health Survey (DLHS-4). DLHS-4 data were merged with Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer satellite data on fire occurrence. Mutually adjusted generalized linear models were used to generate risk ratios for risk factors of ARI. Overall disease burden due to ACRB was estimated in terms of disability-adjusted life years.


Seeking medical treatment for ARI in the previous 2 weeks was reported by 5050 (2%) of 252 539 persons. Living in a district with intense ACRB—the top quintile of fires per day—was associated with a 3-fold higher risk of ARI (mutually adjusted risk ratio 2.99, 95% confidence interval 2.77 to 3.23) after adjustment for socio-demographic and household factors. Children under 5 years of age were particularly susceptible (3.65, 3.06 to 4.34 in this subgroup). Additional ARI risk factors included motor-vehicle congestion (1.96, 1.72 to 2.23), open drainage (1.91, 1.73 to 2.11), cooking with biomass (1.73, 1.58 to 1.90) and living in urban areas (1.35, 1.26 to 1.44). Eliminating ACRB would avert 14.9 million disability-adjusted life years lost per year, valued at US$152.9 billion over 5 years.


Investments to stop crop burning and offer farmers alternative crop-residue disposal solutions are likely to improve population-level respiratory health and yield major economic returns.