India's air pollution reducing 5 years of life expectancy: Study
Air pollution emerged as the greatest threat to human health in India, decreasing life expectancy by five years, said the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago's Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) released on Tuesday. Delhi is India's most polluted state, standing to lose nearly 10 years of life expectancy. Notably, malnutrition and smoking reduce life expectancy by 1.8 and 1.5 years, respectively.
- AQLI measures the correlation between long-term air pollution exposure and life expectancy.
- India reportedly has the highest air pollution burden in the world because of its large population and high particulate pollution levels.
- The levels of particulate pollution have risen from 53 micrograms per cubic meter in 2013 to 56 micrograms today, which is approximately 11 times the World Health Organization's (WHO) safe limit.
As per the study, India is the world's second-most air polluted country after Bangladesh, where poor air quality reduced life expectancy by 6.9 years in 2020. Bangladesh and India are followed by Nepal (4.1 years), Pakistan (3.8 years), and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (2.9 years). According to a study, India has contributed to approximately 44% of the global pollution rise since 2013.
According to AQLI's analysis, Delhi continues to be India's most polluted state with around 9.7 years of average life expectancy lost due to air pollution. The study also found that besides Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, and Tripura are also among the top five most polluted states in India with the greatest potential for increased life expectancy if pollution levels are reduced.
Over the last 20 years, South Asia's vehicular traffic and coal-fueled power plants have increased three to four times, said the study. Moreover, crop burning, brick kilns, and other rapid industrialization activities across India have exacerbated the situation, with the country's particle pollution skyrocketing in the last two decades. According to the study, India's annual average particulate pollution has risen by 61.4% since 1998.
The entire population of India—approximately 1.3 billion people—resides in areas where the average annual level of particulate pollution exceeds the WHO limit. Further, the study revealed that over 63% of the population resides in areas where air quality exceeds India's own national annual standard of 40 micrograms per cubic meter. Air pollution over the last two decades reduced Indians' life expectancy by 2.1 years.
The study said if existing pollution levels continue, 510 million residents (nearly 40% of India's population) will lose 7.6 years of average life expectancy in the Indo-Gangetic plains. If pollution levels remain unchanged, Lucknow residents will lose 9.5 years of average life expectancy, it said.
South Asia bears the highest burden of air pollution, accounting for 52% of the world's estimated lost life expectancy years due to air pollution. Meanwhile, China is set to lose only 2.5 years of average life expectancy as it has gained two years since 2013 due to lower pollution levels. China's pollution has been declining since it launched a "war against pollution" in 2014.