Air pollution cuts life expectancy by over two years: Study
Microscopic air pollution caused mostly by burning fossil fuels shortens lives worldwide by more than two years, researchers reported Tuesday.
The research was done by the University of Chicago's Energy Policy Institute (EPIC), which said the impact of air pollution was comparable to that of smoking and far worse than terrorism.
More than 97% of the global population lives in areas where air pollution exceeds recommended levels, the study found.
EPIC used satellite data to measure levels of PM2.5, hazardous floating particles that damage the lungs. It said that if global PM2.5 levels were reduced to the five micrograms per cubic metre recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), average life expectancy would rise by an average of 2.2 years.
Air pollution has been neglected as a public health issue, with funding to address the problem still inadequate, the study warned.
"Now that our understanding of pollution's impact has improved, there's a stronger case for governments to prioritise it as an urgent policy issue," said Christa Hasenkopf, director of EPIC's Air Quality Life Index.
Central and West Africa, along with much of Southeast Asia and parts of central America, also face pollution levels - and shortened lives - well above the global average.
Across South Asia, the average person would live five years longer if levels of fine particulate matter met World Health Organization (WHO) standards, according to the study.
India accounted for around 44% of the world's increase in air pollution since 2013. In the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, home to 300 million, crippling lung and heart disease caused by so-called PM2.5 pollution reduces life expectancy by eight years, and in the capital city of New Delhi by a decade.
Residents of China could live an average of 2.6 years longer if WHO standards were reached, though life expectancy has improved by around two years since 2013, when the country began a "war on pollution" that cut PM2.5 by around 40%.
EPIC's calculations were based on a previous study showing that sustained exposure to an additional 10 micrograms per cubic metre of PM2.5 would reduce life expectancy by nearly a year.
Not a single country managed to meet the WHO's 5-microgram standard in 2021, according to a survey of pollution data published earlier this year.