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Delhi residents lose 10 years of life to toxic air, study finds while other Indians lose half


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

The University of Chicago Energy Policy Institute (EPIC) Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) has declared Delhi-NCR to be the most polluted city in the world.

“Particle pollution has now become the biggest threat to human health in India, reducing life expectancy by 5 years from what it would be if the World Health Organization (WHO) directive on fine particulate pollution (PM2.5) of 5 µg/m3 have been achieved,” the report states.

In contrast, child and maternal malnutrition reduces average life expectancy by about 1.8 years, while smoking reduces average life expectancy by 1.5 years.

In the plains of the Ganges, home to 510 million people, nearly 40% of India’s population, residents could lose an average of 7.6 years of life expectancy if current pollution levels persist. Lucknow residents risk losing 9.5 years of life expectancy if pollution levels persist.

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AQLI analysis shows that since 1998, India’s average annual particulate pollution has increased by 61.4%, resulting in a further reduction in average life expectancy of 2.1 years.

Notably, since 2013, around 44% of the global increase in pollution has come from India. “Particulate air pollution reduces global average life expectancy by 2.2 years, or 17 billion years of life combined, compared to a world that meets the WHO guideline (5 µg/m3)”, indicates the study.

This impact on life expectancy is comparable to that of tobacco use, more than three times that of alcohol consumption and unclean 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 took away more than 2 years of life expectancy from the average person on the planet,” said Michael Greenstone, Milton Friedman Emeritus Service Professor of Economics. and creator of the AQLI with his colleagues from the EPIC.

“The situation in many parts of the world is similar, except we are spraying the substance (ourselves), not invaders from outer space.”

Delhi residents lose 10 years of life to toxic air, study finds while other Indians lose half

AQLI found that during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global economy slowed down. Yet global average annual particulate pollution (PM2.5) remained unchanged from 2019 levels.

There is growing evidence that air pollution, even when felt at very low levels, harms human health. This has 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, leading most of the world (97, 3% of the world’s population) in the danger zone. area.

“By updating the AQLI with the new WHO guideline based on the latest scientific knowledge, we have a better understanding of the real cost we pay for breathing polluted air,” said the director of the AQLI, Christa Hasenkopf. “Now there are stronger reasons for governments to prioritize it as an urgent policy issue.”

In fact, 1.3 billion Indians live in areas where the average annual level of particulate pollution exceeds the WHO recommendation, and more than 63% of the population lives in areas that exceed the national quality standard of air of 40 µg/m3, according to the study. .

Indians recognize that air pollution is a major threat to health. In 2019, the government launched its National Air Quality Program (NCAP). NCAP’s goal was to reduce particulate pollution by 20 to 30 percent, below 2017 levels, by 2024.

NCAP objectives are non-binding. However, if India were to achieve and sustain this reduction, it would lead to remarkable improvements in health. According to AQLI, a permanent national reduction of 25%, the midpoint of the NCAP target range, would increase India’s national average life expectancy by 1.4 years and 2.6 years for residents of India. Delhi-NCR.


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