Quantcast

Air Pollution Shortens Human Life by One Year, on Average

Health + Wellness
Air pollution harms life expectancy, especially in countries such as Bangladesh, a new study shows. Mirza Khalid / CC BY-SA 4.0

In a summer marked by air quality alerts as wildfires rage in the western U.S., a study has been published finding that air pollution lowers the average lifespan by one year worldwide.

The study, published in Environmental Science and Technology Letters Aug. 22, was the first to assess the impact of particulate matter pollution smaller than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5) on human life expectancy on a per country basis, ScienceNews reported.


The researchers used 2016 data from the Global Burden of Disease project in an attempt to make the health impacts of air pollution more concrete.

"Talking about mortality figures and large body counts, you see people's eyes glaze over," study author and University of Texas at Austin environmental scientist Joshua S. Apte told ScienceNews. "People care not just about whether you die—we all die—but also how much younger are you going to be when that happens."

For people living in the U.S., that's a little over four months, The New York Times reported.

But it can be much more in more polluted developing countries, up to 1.9 years in Egypt and 1.5 in India. In general, countries in Asia and Africa see lifespans reduced from between 1.2 and 1.9 years, according to the study.

The researchers also assessed how much longer lifespans could be if countries limited air pollution to the World Health Organization guideline of 10 micrograms of PM 2.5 per cubic meter of air, ScienceNews reported.

Overall, the global lifespan would increase by a median of more than half (0.6) of a year, equivalent to the health impact of curing breast cancer or lung cancer, the study's authors wrote.

In Egypt, life expectancies would increase by 1.3 years, and in China, by around nine months. In India, limiting air pollution to WHO guidelines would increase a 60-year-old's chance of surviving to 85 in that country by 20 percent, ScienceNews reported.

Coal-fired power plants and truck tailpipes are leading sources of PM 2.5 pollution, The New York Times pointed out, and Apte told the Times that air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions were "tightly linked."

"For example, more efficient cars or cleaner electricity directly benefit both climate and health," Apte told The New York Times in an email. "Indeed, the near- and long-term health benefits of cleaner and more efficient energy use are one of the best co-benefits of tackling climate change, as we will lead healthier and longer lives."

Apte's remarks corroborate a March study that found that if carbon dioxide emissions were reduced enough to limit warming to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels this century without using carbon capture technology, 153 million premature air pollution deaths could be avoided.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Tim P. Whitby / 21st Century Fox / Getty Images

The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.

Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.

The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.

Read More Show Less
A protest march against the Line 3 pipeline in St. Paul, Minnesota on May 18, 2018. Fibonacci Blue / CC BY 2.0

By Collin Rees

We know that people power can stop dangerous fossil fuel projects like the proposed Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline in Minnesota, because we've proved it over and over again — and recently we've had two more big wins.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Scientists released a study showing that a million species are at risk for extinction, but it was largely ignored by the corporate news media. Danny Perez Photography / Flickr / CC

By Julia Conley

Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.

Read More Show Less
DoneGood

By Cullen Schwarz

Ethical shopping is a somewhat new phenomenon. We're far more familiar with the "tried and tested" methods of doing good, like donating our money or time.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

Summer is fast approaching, which means it's time to stock up on sunscreen to ward off the harmful effects of sun exposure. Not all sunscreens are created equally, however.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Mark Wallheiser / Getty Images

The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.

Read More Show Less
Flooding in Winfield, Missouri this month. Jonathan Rehg / Getty Images

President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.

"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.

Read More Show Less
Reed Hoffmann / Getty Images

Violent tornadoes tore through Missouri Wednesday night, killing three and causing "extensive damage" to the state's capital of Jefferson City, The New York Times reported.

"There was a lot of devastation throughout the state," Governor Mike Parson said at a Thursday morning press conference, as NPR reported. "We were very fortunate last night that we didn't have more injuries than what we had, and we didn't have more fatalities across the state. But three is too many."

Read More Show Less