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.
This is the first time that data on air pollution and lifespan has been studied together in order to examine the global variations in how they affect overall life expectancy.
The researchers looked at outdoor air pollution from particulate matter (PM) smaller than 2.5 microns. These fine particles can enter deep into the lungs, and breathing PM2.5 is associated with increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, respiratory diseases and cancer. PM2.5 pollution comes from power plants, cars and trucks, fires, agriculture and industrial emissions.
Led by Joshua Apte in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin, the team used data from the Global Burden of Disease Study to measure PM2.5 air pollution exposure and its consequences in 185 countries. They then quantified the national impact on life expectancy for each individual country as well as on a global scale.