Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Air Pollution Reduces Global Life Expectancy by More Than One Year

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 an 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.

Upper panel a: How air pollution shortens human life expectancy around the world. Lower panel b: Gains in life expectancy that could be reached by meeting World Health Organization guidelines for air quality around the world. (Image: University of Texas at Austin)
Upper panel a: How air pollution shortens human life expectancy around the world. Lower panel b: Gains in life expectancy that could be reached by meeting World Health Organization guidelines for air quality around the world. (Image: University of Texas at Austin)

The findings were published in Environmental Science & Technology Letters, 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.

Apte, who is an assistant professor in the Cockrell School’s Department of Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering and in the Dell Medical School’s Department of Population Health, said in a statement:

In the context of other significant phenomena negatively affecting human survival rates, Apte said this is a big number:

Apte believes this discovery is especially important for the context it provides:

Provided by: University of Texas at Austin [Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]

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Troy Oakes
Troy was born and raised in Australia and has always wanted to know why and how things work, which led him to his love for science. He is a professional photographer and enjoys taking pictures of Australia's beautiful landscapes. He is also a professional storm chaser where he currently lives in Hervey Bay, Australia.
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