In the News

November 19, 2018

Study links air pollution to early death

Marketplace's Scott Tong delves into the study by EPIC's Michael Greenstone and co-authors that shows the average person would live about two years longer if their country met the World Health Organization guideline for particulate matter pollution.
Scott Tong

What’s the benefit of cleaner air? An extra two years of life for the average person in the world, a new study finds.

The study, from researchers at the University of Chicago’s Energy Policy Institute, introduces a new way to think about tiny air pollution particles: how dirty air, created mostly by burning fossil fuels, directly causes shorter lives. In India, average life expectancy is 4.3 years lower than it could be if the country air met standards set by the World Health Organization. In China, the average life is cut short 2.9 years; in the United States 0.1 years, according to the study.

“There’s not many good things about death, but we can all agree we don’t want it to happen,” said lead author Michael Greenstone, director of the energy institute and economics professor. Measuring the effect on life expectancy “seemed like the perfect way to measure the impacts of air pollution,” he said.

When it comes to life expectancy, the study finds air pollution “is the greatest threat to human life in the planet,” Greenstone said. “It has a larger impact than AIDS and even cigarette smoking. And war and terrorism.”

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