The Threat of Air Pollution and Heart Disease in India

Toxic Air,
Toxic Policy

This project investigates the history of air pollution science and policy in India, a country that now suffers the world’s worst urban air pollution and has the highest rate of cardiac deaths. Historical analysis can elucidate the origins of these related problems, the reasons why past attempts to control them have failed, and the prospects for future reforms.

Project Title

The Threat of Air Pollution and Heart Disease in India

Historical analyses of environmental and public health policy offer insight into the successes and failures of political action in these arenas. This perspective can guide advocacy and governance in hopes of greater success moving forward.

Project Summary

Air pollution and heart disease have emerged over the past decade as major challenges facing India—and China and all other developing countries—today. The problems are linked: Air pollution is a major risk factor for heart disease. This project draws on past research to understand the distinct but linked histories of these problems. The resulting analyses of the shifting causes of air pollution, the ways in which it became a cause of public concern, governments’ responses to that problem, and the prospects for successful reform should provide valuable guidance for policymakers today. The project will collaborate with the Public Health Foundation of India to examine the connection between history and policy.

Partner Affiliations in India

Public Health Foundation of India

Principal Investigators

  • S. A.

    Sunil Amrith

    Mehra Family Professor of South Asian Studies and Professor of History, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences

  • David Jones

    David Jones

    A. Bernard Ackerman Professor of the Culture of Medicine, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Harvard Medical School