Air pollution in 2016 reduced life expectancy of Delhiites by 10 years

New study highlights the effects of air pollution on the life of city residents; and the need for urgent measures

By DTE Staff
Published: Tuesday 20 November 2018
The study says that Delhi falls second among the 50 most-polluted areas in the country. Credit: Vikas Choudhary/CSE__

Air pollution in the national capital in 2016 reduced life expectancy by more than 10 years, according to a report by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) released on Monday.

In the past two decades, states the study, the concentration of fine particulate matter increased by 69 per cent on an average across India, reducing life expectancy by 4.3 years compared to 2.2 years in 1998.

North Indian states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and the National Capital Region witnessed a “substantially higher” concentration of particulate matter, with the impact on life expectancy exceeding six years, states the study which compiled the air quality life index across countries.

The study asserts that Delhi falls second among the 50 most-polluted areas in the country, with Bulandshahr topping the list. “The impact of air pollution on life expectancy is comparable to that of smoking, twice the effect of using alcohol and drugs, three times that of unsafe water, five times that of HIV/AIDS, and over 25 times that of conflict and terrorism," it says.

"The air quality life index reveals that India and China, which account for 36 per cent of the world population, account for 73 per cent of all years of life lost due to particulate pollution."

As per a DTE report, India remains one of the worst affected where 1.9 million premature deaths occur due to outdoor and indoor air pollution. It further states that air pollution retards lung growth in Delhi children.

As per another report, air pollution levels in the last week remained in the very poor category, and even going to severe on some days when weather was adverse and winds brought emissions from burning crops.

The PM2.5 concentration in the national capital was measured at 114 µg/m3 in 2016—about 1.6 times higher than the levels in 1998, which stood at 70 µg/m3, says the study.

Similarly, the PM2.5 concentration in Bulandshahr was measured at 124 µg/m3 in 2016—1.6 times higher than 1998, when it was measured at 70 µg/m3.

The study argues that if the WHO guidelines were complied with in 2016, it would raise the average life expectancy at birth from 69 to 73 years—which is a bigger gain than that from combating unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation.

"Around the world today, people are breathing air that represents a serious risk to their health. But the way this risk is communicated is very often opaque and confusing,” says Michael Greenstone, Milton Friedman Professor in Economics and Director at EPIC.

The study argues that air pollution is the "single greatest threat" to human health globally, arguing in favour of efforts to tackle the issue at the earliest. 

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