Air pollution robs over five years of life in South Asia

Air pollution robs over five years of life in South Asia

A new report by the Energy Policy Institute of the University of Chicago (EPIC.) says that air pollution is a bigger killer than coronavirus, much worse than conflict and terrorism. Across India, reducing particulate pollution to the World Health Organization's guideline of 10 µg/m3 would increase the national average life expectancy by 5.2 years estimates the EPIC study.

While the world races to find a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, air pollution remains the greatest long-term risk to human health, reducing global life expectancy by nearly two years, according to a new report.

The Covid-19 lockdown reduced risky air pollutants in five Indian cities - Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Mumbai - by up to 54 per cent saving 630 people from premature deaths, a team of United Kingdom scientists, led by an Indian-origin researcher found. It states that if pollution is reduced in Delhi as per the standards of WAHO, then the people of the national capital may increase their lifespan by 9.4 years.

Here's how the report describes Air Quality Life Index (AQLI): "AQLI is rooted in recent research that quantifies the causal relationship between long-term human exposure to air pollution and life expectancy".

If the level of pollution remains constant, then the age of 24 crore and 80 lakh people living in north India can decrease by more than eight years.

Some 89% of the region's 650 million people live in areas where air pollution exceeds the World Health Organisation's recommended guidelines. Uttar Pradesh is emerging as the most polluted area of South Asia.

The Strand in London was also found to have high air pollution levels. There are now an estimated 4.5 billion people around the world exposed to particulate pollution levels that are at least twice what the World Health Organization considers safe.

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Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Distinguished Service Professor and creator of the AQLI, said: 'Though the threat of coronavirus is grave and deserves every bit of the attention it is receiving-perhaps more in some places-embracing the seriousness of air pollution with a similar vigor would allow billions of people around the world to lead longer and healthier lives'.

In South Asia, particulate pollution has been on the rise, and now shortens lives more than anywhere else in the world.

A quarter of India's population is exposed to pollution levels not seen in any other country, with 248 million residents of northern India on track to lose more than eight years of life if current pollution levels persist.

Since the creation of the European Environment Agency, resulting emissions targets have meant European citizens are now exposed to 41 per cent less particulate pollution than they were two decades ago.

The Air Quality Life Index (AQLI), which calculates the impact of particulate air pollution on life expectancy, showed that particulate pollution is still a big problem across the globe, and is set to remain one after COVID-19, unless strong and sustained public policy are taken in all countries. The aim of NCAP is to reduce particulate pollution by 20-30 percent relative to 2017 levels by 2024.

According to the AQLI, Poland is the country with the most polluted air in Europe.

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