Air pollution shortens life by 3 years worldwide

By using a new method of modelling the effects of various sources of air pollution on death rates, a new study has estimated that globally air pollution caused an extra 8.8 million premature deaths a year in 2015. This represents an average shortening of life expectancy of nearly three years for all persons worldwide. It is the first study to show the effects of air pollution on deaths according to age, type of disease and its effect on life expectancy at the level of individual countries and regions.

The study distinguishes between avoidable, human-made air pollution and pollution from natural sources such as desert dust and wildfire emissions, which cannot be avoided, and shows that about two-thirds of premature deaths are attributable to human-made air pollution, mainly from fossil fuel use; this goes up to 80 per cent in high-income countries. This means that five and a half million deaths worldwide a year are potentially avoidable.

The researchers estimate that if air pollution was reduced by removing fossil fuel emissions, the average life expectancy worldwide would increase by just over a year, and by nearly two years if all human-made emissions were removed.

Source: Science Daily, 2 March 2020.

The study: “Loss of life expectancy from air pollution compared to other risk factors: a worldwide perspective”, by Jos Lelieveld et al. Published in Cardiovascular Research. DOI: 10.1093/cvr/cvaa025

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