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Decreasing air pollution increases people’s life expectancy by an average of 2.2 years, according to a new study. Researchers from the University of Chicago found that by bringing pollution across the globe down to the World Health Organization’s guidelines, a collective 17 billion years could be added to the planet’s population’s life expectancy. For countries on the higher side of the average air pollution, like India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan, people could add 5.6 years with reduced pollution. Worldwide, people are exposed to three times the recommended amount of the fine particle pollution PM 2.5, which gets into the lungs and bloodstream and can lead to significant health issues.
However, this research focuses on the positive potential to improve people’s lives by improving air quality. Most air pollution comes from burning fossil fuels, from coal-fired power plants to diesel car engines. So, going after the source of particle pollution is better for the planet’s health as well. A study last March found that eliminating fossil fuel emissions would raise the global life expectancy by 1.1 years.
“Around the world today, people are breathing air that represents a serious risk to their health. But the way this risk is communicated is very often opaque and confusing, translating air pollution concentrations into colors like red, brown, orange, and green. What those colors mean for people’s well-being has always been unclear,” said Michael Greenstone, the director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago.
Past studies have found that, on average, air pollution leads to a greater loss in life expectancy than tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, cigarette smoking, and war.
Curious about what getting air pollution down to WHO guideline levels would mean for your city or country? Explore the index map here.
By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer An Indonesian district court ruled yesterday that Indonesian President Joko Widodo has neglected Jakarta’s residents right to clean air. In a unanimous ruling in favor of the 32 residents who brought the case, the Central Jakarta District Court ordered Widodo, and six other top officials deemed negligent, to improve […]
By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer As the Caldor Fire burns through the El Dorado National Forest, the area around Lake Tahoe and Reno, Nevada, has developed the worst air quality in the county. On Monday, the Air Quality Index hit 694 in Tahoe City. An AQI above 300 is considered hazardous and can cause serious health issues. The […]
By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer Beijing’s reputation for smog may be lifting. In 2013, the city’s pollution was so bad that people called it an “air-pocalypse.” Readings for PM2.5, a tiny pollution particle that can adversely impact human health, hit 900 micrograms per square meter, 90 times higher than the World Health Organization’s recommended […]
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