Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Air pollution ‘greatest risk’ to global life expectancy



Air pollution ‘greatest risk’ to global life expectancy

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Bangkok covered in toxic smog in 2019. AFP

Air pollution ‘greatest risk’ to global life expectancy

Air pollution cuts life expectancy for every man, woman and child on Earth by nearly two years, according to data released on Tuesday which experts said showed poor air quality is “the greatest risk to human health”.

The Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) said that as the world races to find a vaccine to bring the Covid-19 pandemic under control, air pollution would continue to cause billions of people to lead shorter and sicker lives across the globe.

The index converts particulate air pollution – mainly from the burning of fossil fuels – into its impact on human health.

It found that despite significant reductions in particulate matter in China – once one of the world’s most polluted countries – the overall level of air pollution had stayed stable over the past two decades.

In countries such as India and Bangladesh, air pollution was so severe that it now cuts average lifespans in some areas by nearly a decade.

Authors of the research said the quality of the air many humans breathe constituted a far higher health risk than Covid-19.

AQLI creator Michael Greenstone said: “Though the threat of coronavirus is grave and deserves every bit of the attention it is getting, embracing the seriousness of air pollution with a similar vigour would allow billions of people to lead longer and healthier lives.”

Nearly a quarter of the global population lives in just four south Asian countries that are among the most polluted – Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan.

AQLI found that these populations would see their lifespan cut by five years on average, after being exposed to pollution levels 44 per cent higher than 20 years ago.

It said particulate pollution was also a “significant concern” across Southeast Asia, where forest and crop fires were combining with traffic and power plant fumes to create toxic air.

Some 89 per cent of the region’s 650 million people live in areas where air pollution exceeds the World Health Organisation’s recommended guidelines.

While places such as the US, Europe and Japan have succeeded in improving air quality, pollution still takes an average of two years off of life expectancy worldwide, AQLI said.

Bangladesh was found to have the worst air quality of any country, and around 250 million residents of India’s northern states will lose eight years of life on average unless pollution is brought under control.

Several studies have shown exposure to air pollution is also a key Covid-19 risk factor, and Greenstone urged governments to prioritise air quality after the pandemic.

“No shot in the arm will alleviate air pollution,” said Greenstone, from the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago.

“The solution lies in robust public policy,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia to waive quarantine requirements Nov 15, no PCR test required

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has decided to lift all quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated travellers and visitors – both Cambodians and foreign nationals – effective from November 15 onward. In a special message addressed to officials and relevant authorities on November 14, Hun Sen said this policy will enable

  • PM: No more quarantine for vaccinated travellers

    Cambodia is lifting all quarantine requirements for vaccinated inbound travellers entering Cambodia by air, waterway or land border checkpoints effective from November 15. Travellers will be required to take a rapid antigen test on arrival rather than waiting for the results of the lengthier polymerase chain

  • No payment required for travellers taking rapid Covid tests on arrival

    Ministry of Health officials said there would be no payment required for the rapid Covid-19 tests given to travellers who arrive in Cambodia from November 15 onwards after the quarantine requirement is lifted for fully vaccinated people. Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine told The Post on

  • General’s gun smuggling ring busted

    The Military Police sent six military officers to court on November 22 to face prosecution for possession of 105 illegal rifles and arms smuggling, while investigators say they are still hunting down additional accomplices. Sao Sokha, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and commander of

  • More Cambodians studying in US

    The number of Cambodian students studying at US colleges and universities in 2020-21 increased by 14.3 per cent over the previous year despite the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recent US government report. The 2021 Open Doors report on International Educational Exchange showed that 848 Cambodian students studied

  • Cambodia, Thailand to discuss border reopening

    Cambodian authorities from provinces along the Cambodia-Thailand border will meet with Thai counterparts to discuss reopening border checkpoints to facilitate travel, transfer of products and cross-border trade between the two countries. Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy governor Ly Sary said on November 22 that the provincial administration