New Delhi, Nov 19 (IANS) India is the world’s second most polluted country, slightly trailing only Nepal, the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) said on Monday.
Particulate pollution is so severe that it shortens the average Indian’s life expectancy by more than four years relative to what it would be if World Health Organization (WHO) air quality guidelines were met.
This is up from about two years in the late 1990s due to a 69 per cent increase in particulate pollution, it said.
Concentrations in Indian states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, and the National Capital Territory of Delhi are substantially higher, and the impact on life expectancy exceeds six years.
Its new air pollution index, known as the Air Quality Life Index (AQLI), finds that air pollution reduces global life expectancy by nearly two years, making it the single greatest threat to human health.
The tool gives figures like — for an average resident of Delhi, gain in life expectancy if the WHO guidelines are met, could be up to 10.2 years.
Likewise, it gives numbers of years lost to pollution for every district of India for a span of 18 years between 1998 and 2016.
What makes AQLI unique is that it converts pollution into perhaps the most important metric that exists — life expectancy. It does so at a hyper-local level throughout the world.
Further, it illustrates how air pollution policies can increase life expectancy when they meet the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guideline, existing national air quality standards, or user-defined air quality levels.
This information helps informing local communities and policymakers about the importance of air pollution policies in very concrete terms.
Loss of life expectancy is highest in Asia, exceeding six years in many parts of India and China; some residents of the US still lose up to a year of life from pollution.
Fossil fuel-driven particulate air pollution cuts global average life expectancy by 1.8 years per person, according to the pollution index and accompanying report produced by the EPIC.
“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 wellbeing has always been unclear,” Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Professor in Economics and Director of the EPIC, said.
Greenstone also noted: “My colleagues and I developed the AQLI, where the ‘L’ stands for ‘life’ to address these shortcomings. It takes particulate air pollution concentrations and converts them into perhaps the most important metric that exists, life expectancy.”
The AQLI is based on a pair of peer-reviewed studies co-authored by Greenstone that quantify the causal relationship between long-term human exposure to particulate pollution and life expectancy.