The impact of polluted air on life expectancy

(Eco Business, 13 Feb 2019) A new index quantifies the link between air quality and longevity, but it may not be the best guide to informing policy to address the air pollution problem.

How much longer could you expect to live if you breathed clean air? If you’re in north-east China then it could be three or more years, according to the Air Quality Life Index (AQLI), which was launched last month in Beijing by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC).

Unlike the well-known Air Quality Index, which highlights how good or bad the air quality is in a particular area, the AQLI shows the cost of breathing polluted air on life expectancy.

Search for a city on the AQLI map and you can see how much longer residents there could expect to live if PM2.5 levels reached the World Health Organisation’s safe target of 10 micrograms per cubic metre of air.

The website was developed to give the public and policymakers a more direct understanding of the importance of reducing air pollution.

But some academics say it would not be appropriate to base environmental policies too firmly on the link between PM2.5 and life expectancy. If policies don’t take into account differences in wealth between regions, and between urban and rural areas, poorer populations may see longevity fall even further.

External link

Eco Business, 13 Feb 2019: The impact of polluted air on life expectancy