Air pol­lu­tion short­ens lives


Air pol­lu­tion, caused largely by burn­ing fos­sil fu­els, is cut­ting global life ex­pectancy by an av­er­age of 1.8 years per per­son, mak­ing it the world’s top killer, re­searchers said re­cently.

The tiny par­ti­cles in­gested from pol­luted air shorten life more than first-hand cig­a­rette smoke, which can re­duce it by 1.6 years, and are more dan­ger­ous than other pub­lic-health threats, such as war and HIV/Aids, they said.

The Univer­sity of Chicago’s Air Qual­ity Life In­dex (AQLI) shows peo­ple in parts of In­dia, the world’s se­cond-largest coun­try by pop­u­la­tion, could live 11 years less due to high lev­els of air pol­lu­tion.

Life ex­pectancy av­er­ages slightly be­low 69 in the South Asian na­tion of 1.3 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the World Bank.

The re­searchers launched a web­site that tells users how many years of life air pol­lu­tion could cost them ac­cord­ing to which re­gion of a coun­try they live in.

The in­dex seeks to trans­form hard-to-com­pre­hend data into “per­haps the most im­por­tant met­ric that ex­ists — life”, Michael Green­stone, direc­tor of the En­ergy Pol­icy In­sti­tute at the Univer­sity of Chicago (Epic), said. Par­tic­u­late pol­lu­tion is nor­mally mea­sured in mi­cro­grammes per cu­bic me­tre.

“The fact that this AQLI tool quan­ti­fies the num­ber of years I and you have lost to air pol­lu­tion makes me wor­ried,” Ka­likesh Singh Deo, an In­dian mem­ber of par­lia­ment, said in a state­ment shared by Epic.

China and In­done­sia are also among the coun­tries where mi­cro­scopic par­ti­cles float­ing in the air hit res­i­dents the hard­est, cut­ting their life ex­pectancy by as much as seven years and five-and-a-half years re­spec­tively, the web­site shows.

Other stud­ies have pre­vi­ously looked into the num­ber of peo­ple who may die pre­ma­turely be­cause of air pol­lu­tion.

But the Epic sci­en­tists hope the web­site — the first of its kind, ac­cord­ing to the in­sti­tute — will make the con­se­quences of poli­cies that pro­mote dirty en­ergy more tan­gi­ble, and en­cour­age re­forms that pro­mote bet­ter air qual­ity.

Only a hand­ful of In­dia’s 100 most-pol­luted cities have drawn up plans to com­bat air pol­lu­tion de­spite be­ing asked to do so three years ago, a re­port from the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion said ear­lier this year.

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