Air pollution shortens human lives by more than a year, according to a new study from a team of leading environmental engineers and public health researchers. Better air quality could lead to a significant extension of lifespans around the world, Phys.Org reports.
2018 Study Abstract
Exposure to ambient fine particulate matter (PM2.5) air pollution is a major risk for premature death. Here, we systematically quantify the global impact of PM2.5 on life expectancy. Using data from the Global Burden of Disease project and actuarial standard life table methods, we estimate global and national decrements in life expectancy that can be attributed to ambient PM2.5 for 185 countries. In 2016, PM2.5 exposure reduced average global life expectancy at birth by ∼1 year with reductions of ∼1.2–1.9 years in polluted countries of Asia and Africa. If PM2.5 in all countries met the World Health Organization Air Quality Guideline (10 μg m–3), we estimate life expectancy could increase by a population-weighted median of 0.6 year (interquartile range of 0.2–1.0 year), a benefit of a magnitude similar to that of eradicating lung and breast cancer. Because background disease rates modulate the effect of air pollution on life expectancy, high age-specific rates of cardiovascular disease in many polluted low- and middle-income countries amplify the impact of PM2.5 on survival. Our analysis adds to prior research by illustrating how mortality from air pollution substantially reduces human longevity.