Air pollution cuts life expectancy in India’s capital by 10 years, study says

Air pollution cuts life expectancy in India’s capital by 10 years, study says

NEW DELHI – Air pollution in major cities in South Asia has reduced the life expectancy of people living there by as much as 10 years, despite COVID-19 lockdowns having slowed economic activity since 2020, says a new study by a group of US research. New Delhi, capital of India, was ranked as the most polluted city in the worldwhere people lost nearly 10 years of their lives due to air pollution, according to the study commissioned by the University of Chicago’s Energy Policy Institute (EPIC).

Air pollution has reduced life expectancy in New Delhi by up to 10 years and across the country by five years, the study says. The study ranked Bangladesh as the most polluted country in the world, followed by India, Nepal and Pakistan.

People living in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, are losing nearly nine years of their lives due to air pollution, while the national average is 6.9 years, according to the survey.

EPIC’s “Air Quality Life Index” study translates particulate air pollution into actual impact on life expectancy by calculating how long people would live in a given population if the World Health Organization (WHO) guideline for particulate pollution annual average of 5 μg/m³ was met.

Levels of the most dangerous air pollution – fine particles known as PM2.5 – in Delhi are more than 10 times the WHO safe limit. PM2.5 particles can penetrate and settle deep into the lungs, causing serious health problems, including respiratory and heart disease.

The study notes that more than 500 million people living in northern India are “on track” to lose 7.6 years of their lives on average if high levels of pollution are not tackled.

“The report is definitely alarming, although these studies have also been released in the past,” Professor Sachchida Nand Tripathi, an Indian scientist who researches air quality, told CBS News.

About 44% of global pollution since 2013 has come from India, according to EPIC research. The country has witnessed a huge increase in air pollution in recent decades due to rapid industrialization and heavy reliance on fossil fuels. The number of vehicles on the country’s roads has increased by about four times, the report notes. India is struggling to switch to cleaner fuels, but experts told CBS News that it will not be easy to abandon the national habit of coal.

“It’s going to take about 15 years for us to see any tangible reduction in particulate matter … a significant reduction could take two to four decades,” Tripathi told CBS News.

He is a panelist for the Indian government’s National Clean Air Program (NCAP), which is working on a plan to reduce PM2.5 in 122 cities by 20-30% by 2024 compared to 2017 levels.

Air pollution in Nepal, the third most polluted country, and Pakistan, the fourth most polluted country, reduced life expectancy by 4.1 years and 3.8 years, respectively, according to the EPIC study. But some of the districts in both countries – including Lahore and Peshawar in Pakistan – are as bad as Bangladesh, where people’s lives are being shortened by nearly seven years, according to the survey.

The study indicates that more than a billion people living in South Asia may have already suffered serious health impacts.

Tripathi said that “rapid economic growth, high population density and a unique topography that creates a peculiar climate effect” are likely factors contributing to the high levels of air pollution in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

The study says that globally, air pollution is reducing life expectancy by 2.2 years. This is an impact equivalent to that of smoking and more than three times that of alcohol and non-potable water use.

“It would be a global emergency if Martians came to Earth and sprayed a substance that caused the average person on the planet to lose more than two years of life expectancy,” said Michael Greenstone, an economics professor who co-created the EPIC Air Pollution. . life expectancy index. “This is similar to the situation that prevails in many parts of the world, except we are spraying the substance, not some invaders from outer space.”

The study says that air pollution has declined in the US and Europe, but most people in both still live in areas that do not meet the standards set by the WHO.

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