“Chronic” air pollution reduces average life expectancy worldwide by more than two years per person, study shows. The impact is comparable to that of smoking and far worse than HIV/AIDS or terrorism.
More than 97 percent of the global population lives in areas where air pollution exceeds recommended levels, the University of Chicago’s Energy Policy Institute (EPIC) said in its latest Living Air Quality Index, which used satellite data to to measure levels of PM2.5, dangerous floating particles that damage the lungs, according to Reuters.
If global PM2.5 levels were reduced to the level of five micrograms per cubic meter recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), average life expectancy would increase by an average of 2.2 years.
Air pollution has been neglected as a public health problem
The study warned that air pollution has been neglected as a public health problem and funding to tackle the problem is still inadequate.
“Now that our understanding of the impact of pollution has improved, there is a stronger case for governments to prioritize it as an urgent policy issue,” said Christa Hasenkopf, director of the EPIC Living Air Quality Index.
Residents in South Asia lose about five years of life to smog, according to the study, with India responsible for about 44 percent of the global increase in air pollution since 2013.
Residents of China could live an average of 2.6 years longer
Residents of China could live an average of 2.6 years longer if they met WHO standards, although life expectancy has improved by about two years since 2013, when the country began a “war on pollution” that reduced PM2, 5 by about 40%.
EPIC’s calculations were based on a previous study which showed that sustained exposure to an extra 10 micrograms per cubic meter of PM2.5 would reduce life expectancy by almost a year.
No country has managed to meet the WHO’s 5 microgram standard in 2021, according to a study of pollution data published earlier this year.