We already knew that air pollution had officially become the world’s biggest killer.
Now, an Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) analysis by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago has found just that air pollution will cut the average global lifespan by 1.8 years. In countries where air pollution is particularly bad, like India and China, that figure is an astonishing six years.
The analysis brings home the message that air pollution can affect anybody, and that it can have very real consequences on our health.
“The way this [health] risk is communicated is very often opaque and confusing,” director of the Energy Policy Institute Michael Greenstone told The Guardian. “We developed the AQLI to address these shortcomings. It takes particulate air pollution concentrations and converts them into perhaps the most important metric that exists – life expectancy.”
Smoking was a close second, taking 1.6 years years off the average lifespan. Conflict and terrorism amounted to only 22 days, while some of the deadliest infectious diseases, like tuberculosis, reduce lifespans by only four months on average.
A recent report by the WHO found that air pollution kills around seven million people a year, caused by pollutants irritating lungs, and hearts.
The Energy Policy Institute’s analysis also concluded that energy production was the biggest cause of particulate pollution. Most concerning: diesel engines, coal-fired power plants, and the burning of coal indoors.
The numbers tell a grim story, particularly when they’re translated into life expectancy. But it’s a powerful call to action to improve the quality of air for our descendents.