Is it Air Pollution or the devastating communicable diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS kill the most people on earth? It is, no doubt, air pollution as per the latest study by the Energy Policy Institute of University of Chicago.
The report that was out last week pointed out that the average person loses 2.2 years of life expectancy due to particulate pollution exceeding the World Health Organization (WHO) guideline. The impact of particulate pollution is greater than the effects of devastating communicable diseases like tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, behavioural killers like cigarette smoking, and even war, the report added.
It said that the average global citizen is exposed to particulate pollution concentrations of 32 μg/m3, which is over 3 times the WHO’s guideline of ten μg/m32. In the report, the authors also mentioned that if the world reduces air pollution levels to WHO guidelines, then it could increase global average life expectancy from roughly 72 to 74 years, and in total, the world’s population could gain 17 billion life-years.
DEADLY THAN SMOKING AND DISEASES
The authors pointed out that first-hand cigarette smoke reduced global average life expectancy by about 1.8 years. Alcohol use reduced life expectancy by 7 months; unsafe water and sanitation 7 months; HIV/AIDS 4 months; malaria, 3 months; and conflict and terrorism, just 18 days, the report graphed. As such, the authors noted that the impact of particulate pollution on life expectancy is comparable to that of smoking, twice that of alcohol and drug use, three times that of unsafe water, five times that of HIV/AIDS, and 29 times that of conflict and terrorism.
The report said that the air pollution was deadly, as majority of people living in polluted countries cannot avoid it. Everyone must breathe air, the report said. On the other hand, it is possible to quit smoking or take precautions against diseases. Thus, air pollution affects many more people than any of these other conditions.
The researchers said that about 6.3 billion people, which are about 82 percent of the global population, live in areas where PM2.5 exceeds the WHO guideline. The report also mentions about strong clean air policies, especially those targeting fossil fuel combustion, can reduce particulate pollution concentrations and increase life expectancies, along with the co-benefit of reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.