The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Air Pollution Shortens Human Life by One Year, on Average
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.
- The list of diseases linked to air pollution is growing | Science News ›
- A new tool tells you how many years air pollution is stealing from ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Cathy Brown
Most of us have heard about UN researchers warning that we need to make dramatic changes in the next 12 years to limit our risk of extreme heat, drought, floods and poverty caused by climate change. Report after report about a bleak climate future can leave people in despair.
Losing weight, improving heart health and decreasing your chances for metabolic diseases like diabetes may be as simple as cutting back on a handful of Oreos or saying no to a side of fries, according to a new study published in the journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.
It's important to remember that one person can make a difference. From teenagers to world-renowned scientists, individuals are inspiring positive shifts around the world. Maybe you won't become a hard-core activist, but this list of people below can inspire simple ways to kickstart better habits. Here are seven people advocating for a better planet.
Scotland produced enough power from wind turbines in the first half of 2019, that it could power Scotland twice over. Put another way, it's enough energy to power all of Scotland and most of Northern England, according to the BBC — an impressive step for the United Kingdom, which pledged to be carbon neutral in 30 years.
By Jessica A. Knoblauch
It's been a particularly terrible summer for bees. Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it is allowing the bee-killing pesticide sulfoxaflor back on the market. And just a few weeks prior, the USDA announced it is suspending data collection for its annual honeybee survey, which tracks honeybee populations across the U.S., providing critical information to farmers and scientists.
tommaso79 / iStock / Getty Images Plus
By Rachel Licker
As a new mom, I've had to think about heat safety in many new ways since pregnant women and young children are among the most vulnerable to extreme heat.