A new index has found that fossil fuel-driven particulate air pollution reduces global average life expectancy by 1.8 years, making it the single greatest threat to human health. Produced by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), the Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) — the ‘L’ stands for ‘Life’ — found that particulate pollution’s effect on life expectancy exceeds that of communicable diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, behavioural killers like cigarette smoking, and even war. Compared to 1.8 years from particulate pollution, first-hand cigarette smoke leads to a reduction in global average life expectancy of about 1.6 years. Alcohol and drugs reduce life expectancy by 11 months; unsafe water and sanitation take off 7 months; and HIV/AIDS, 4 months. Conflict and terrorism take off 22 days.
In India, people would live 4.3 years longer on an average if their country met WHO guidelines on particulate concentration – expanding the average life expectancy at birth there from 69 to 73 years.
Loss of life expectancy is highest in Asia, exceeding 6 years in many parts of India and China. India and China, which make up 36% of the wor’d’s population, account for 73% of all years of life lost due to particulate pollution.
The AQLI is based on a pair of peer-reviewed studies co-authored by EPIC director Michael 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.
Source: Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago