Not only does the environment suffer from emissions from vehicles and factories, our health is also seriously affected. This is according to a study conducted by the University of Chicago and published on Tuesday. On average, each person costs a reduction in life expectancy by 2.3 years, which translates to 17.8 billion years of life lost globally.
If countries adopted the WHO threshold for particulate matter exposure, life expectancy worldwide would increase by 2.3 years. Pollution from traffic, industry and fires in particular remain the greatest external health risks. This has a similar effect on longevity as smoking, and is even three times worse than alcohol or unsafe water, according to the study.
The consequences were particularly striking in South Asia, where air pollution is most serious. And in Bangladesh, the population would gain 6.8 years in life expectancy if exposure to particulate matter was reduced.
On the other hand, China has made “remarkable progress in its fight against air pollution” since 2014, according to researcher Christa Hasenkopf. Average air pollution in the country decreased by 42.3 percent between 2013 and 2021, but it is still more than six times above the threshold. If this progress continues, the average life expectancy of the Chinese population will reach 2.2 years.
But in general, the regions with the worst values are also the places that receive the least help to combat air pollution. “There is a profound contradiction between the places where the air is most polluted and the places where the most resources are collectively and globally devoted to solving this problem,” Hasenkopf says.
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