Diesel exhaust is the main source of air pollution in cities

Global lifespans being cut by 1.8 years due to air pollution

Image credit: Reuters

Air pollution is reducing global lifespans by an average of 1.8 years, according to the University of Chicago’s Air Quality Life Index (AQLI).

The study found that some of the most polluted areas were in Asia, where life expectancy could be reduced by more than six years in many areas. Even US residents could lose a year of their lives from pollution, despite stricter rules.

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, the study found.

“Around the world today, people are breathing air that represents a serious risk to their health. But the way this risk is communicated is very often opaque and confusing, translating air pollution concentrations into colours, like red, brown, orange and green. What those colours mean for people’s wellbeing has always been unclear,” said professor Michael Greenstone at the University of Chicago.

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.

The AQLI is based on a pair of peer-reviewed studies co-authored by Greenstone that quantify the causal relationship between long-term human exposure to particulate pollution and life expectancy.

The results from these studies are then combined with hyper-localised, global particulate matter measurements, yielding unprecedented insight into the true cost of air pollution in communities around the world.

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 in a statement.

Particulate pollution is normally measured in micrograms per cubic meter.

“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.

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.

Last week, a separate study found that London’s low-emission traffic zone is not having as positive an impact on the health of residents as had been hoped. 

Recent articles

Info Message

Our sites use cookies to support some functionality, and to collect anonymous user data.

Learn more about IET cookies and how to control them

Close