In the News

November 21, 2018

Breathing dirty air takes years off people’s lives. This tool shows just how much.

Vox reports on the AQLI.
Umair Irfan

California’s ongoing Camp Fire, the state’s most destructive and deadliest fire on record, has for nearly two weeks shrouded huge swaths of Northern California in smoke, making the air unhealthy and even dangerous to breathe. On November 16, California briefly had the world’s dirtiest air.

Air pollution from wildfire smoke and many other sources is unfortunately a growing problem around the world. The World Health Organization recently reported that nine out of 10 people breathe polluted air, and that 7 million people die each year due to these hazards. At the country level, India has some of the worst air anywhere — when you look at ranking of particulate pollution in cities, 11 of the 12 cities with the highest levels are in India.

And all these health effects can add up to years of life lost. A 2015 study found that India’s air pollution trimmed 3.2 years from the life expectancy of 660 million people living in the country.

The Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago recently launched an interactive tool that shows just how much different parts of the world would benefit if they breathed clean air. The Air Quality Life Index maps fine particulate air pollution concentrations and calculates how many years of life people living in an area would potentially gain if their air quality improved to meet WHO guidelines. The WHO considers 10 micrograms of fine particulates per cubic meter on average per year as the safe limit.

Not surprisingly, places with the dirtiest air right now stand to gain the most. On average, India would rise 4.3 years in life expectancy. China would see an increase of 2.9 years.

Continue reading at Vox…