homeenvironment NewsDelhiites losing 10 years of life to toxic air while other Indians losing half of that, says study

Delhiites losing 10 years of life to toxic air while other Indians losing half of that, says study

Delhiites losing 10 years of life to toxic air while other Indians losing half of that, says study
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By Shruti Malhotra  Jun 14, 2022 5:40:10 PM IST (Published)

Delhi-NCR as the most polluted city in the world, according to the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago's (EPIC) Air Quality Life Index (AQLI)

If you live in Delhi-National Capital Region, toxic air is likely to rob you of 10 years of your life — double what you would have lost if you stayed in any non-Gangetic region, according to a recent study.

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The Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago's (EPIC) Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) has stated that Delhi-NCR is the most polluted city in the world.
"Particulate pollution has now become the greatest threat to human health in India, reducing life expectancy by 5 years relative to what it would be if the World Health Organization (WHO) guideline of fine particulate pollution (PM2.5) of 5 µg/m3 were met," the report said.
In contrast, child and maternal malnutrition reduce average life expectancy by about 1.8 years, while smoking reduces the average life expectancy by 1.5 years.
In the Gangetic plains, home to 510 million people or nearly 40 percent of India’s population, residents could lose 7.6 years of life expectancy on average if the current pollution levels persist. Residents of Lucknow stand to lose 9.5 years of life expectancy if the pollution levels persist.
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The AQLI analysis shows that since 1998, India's average annual particulate pollution has increased by 61.4 percent, leading to a further reduction in average life expectancy of 2.1 years.
Notably, since 2013, about 44 percent of the world’s increase in pollution has come from India. "Particulate air pollution shaves 2.2 years off global average life expectancy, or a combined 17 billion life years, relative to a world that meets the WHO guideline (5 µg/m3)," the study said.
This impact on life expectancy is comparable to that of smoking, more than three times that of alcohol use and unsafe water, six times that of HIV/AIDS, and 89 times that of conflict and terrorism.
“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 2 years of life expectancy,” said Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Distinguished Service Professor in Economics and creator of the AQLI along with his colleagues at the EPIC.
"The situation that prevails in many parts of the world is similar, except we are spraying the substance (ourselves), not some invaders from outer space."
The AQLI found that during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world’s economy slowed. Yet, the global annual average particulate pollution (PM2.5) remained unchanged from the 2019 levels.
Growing evidence shows air pollution—even when experienced at very low levels—hurts human health. This recently led the WHO to revise its guideline (from 10 µg/m³ to 5 µg/m³) for what it considers a safe level of exposure to particulate pollution, bringing most of the world—97.3 percent of the global population—into the unsafe zone.
“By updating the AQLI with the new WHO guideline based on the latest science, we have a better grasp on the true cost we are paying to breathe polluted air,” said AQLI Director Christa Hasenkopf. “Now there is a stronger case for governments to prioritise it as an urgent policy issue.”
In fact, 1.3 billion Indians live in areas where the annual average particulate pollution level exceeds the WHO guideline, and more than 63 percent of the population live in areas that exceed the country’s own national air quality standard of 40 µg/m3, the study reported.
Indians recognise that air pollution is a major health threat. In 2019, the government launched its National Clean Air Programme (NCAP). The goal of NCAP was to reduce particulate pollution by 20-30 percent, relative to 2017 levels, by 2024.
The NCAP targets are non-binding. However, if India were to achieve and sustain this reduction, it would lead to remarkable health improvements. According to the AQLI, a permanent, nationwide reduction of 25 percent, the midpoint of NCAP’s target range, would increase India’s average national life expectancy by 1.4 years and by 2.6 years for residents of Delhi-NCR.
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