Air pollution cuts global life expectancy by two years

Air pollution with fine particles, mostly linked to the combustion of fossil fuels, shortens lifespans by more than two years on average worldwide, according to a study published on Tuesday.

Air pollution cuts global life expectancy by two years

Air pollution with fine particles, mostly linked to the combustion of fossil fuels, shortens lifespans by more than two years on average worldwide, according to a study published on Tuesday.

• Read also: The level of CO2 in the air 50% higher than before the industrial era

“Permanently reducing global air pollution to meet WHO recommendations would add 2.2 years to average life expectancy,” write the authors of the Air Quality Life Index report published by Energy Policy. Institute of the University of Chicago.

In South Asia, a person could live five years longer if the level of fine particles in the air met World Health Organization (WHO) standards.

These microparticles (known as PM2.5, less than 2.5 microns, the diameter of a hair), classified as carcinogenic by the United Nations in 2013, penetrate deep into the lungs and enter the blood. They can cause respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

The WHO recommends that the density of PM2.5 in the air should not exceed fifteen micrograms per cubic meter over any 24-hour period, and remain below five micrograms per cubic meter on average over a year, reinforced thresholds l year in the face of evidence of their impact on health.

Almost all populated areas of the world exceed WHO recommendations, but Asia holds the record. Levels are 15 times higher in Bangladesh, 10 times higher in India and nine times higher in Nepal and Pakistan.

In the Indian states Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, where 300 million people live, diseases caused by these particles reduce life expectancy by eight years, and up to ten years in the capital New Delhi.

Globally, PM2.5 microparticle pollution did not decrease in 2020 (most recent data available) compared to the previous year, despite a sharp economic slowdown and a drop in CO2 emissions linked to the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns.

However, the situation in China is improving. Pollution there fell by 40% between 2013 and 2020, adding two years of life expectancy to its inhabitants. But life expectancy remains reduced by 2.6 years on average in the country.

Statistically, mortality from PM2.5 pollution is comparable to that caused by tobacco consumption, three times higher than that from alcohol consumption and six times higher than HIV-related mortality, according to the report. .

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