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Scientists: Bangladeshis lose over 1.8 years of lifespan to air pollution

  • Published at 01:03 am August 27th, 2018
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Dust pollution reaches an alarming stage in Dhaka and many deaths as well as several million cases of illness occur every year due to the poor air quality Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

Pollution-induced global deaths rise from 3.5 mn in 1990 to 4.2 mn in 2015

Ambient air pollution shortens an average Bangladeshi's lifespan by 1.87 years, say scientists who suggest that better air quality could lead to a significant extension of human lifespan around the world.

Average human life is about one year shorter due to atmospheric particulate matter (PM) 2.5 ambient air pollution, with lives shortened by 1.5 to 2 years in the most polluted Asian and African countries, a new study has found, reports UNB.

The researchers from the University of Texas, University of British Columbia, Brigham Young University in Utah, Imperial College London and the Boston-based Health Effects Institute looked at outdoor air pollution from PM smaller than 2.5 microns.

These fine particles can enter the lungs and increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes, respiratory diseases and cancer, said the report.

Researchers said that if PM2.5 concentrations worldwide were limited to the World Health Organisation (WHO) air quality guideline, the global life expectancy would be on average 0.59 year longer.

PM2.5 is released from tailpipes of vehicles, coal-fired power plants, and agriculture and industrial emissions. Incidents like dust storms and wildfires produce large amounts of the particulate matter as well.

Bangladesh was placed on top out of 185 countries in terms of average years of life expectancy lost due to exposure to PM2.5 followed by Egypt (1.85 years), Pakistan (1.56 years), India (1.53 years), Saudi Arabia (1.48 years), Nigeria (1.28 years), and China (1.25 years).

Bangladesh, one of the most densely-populated countries in the world, has been struggling with air pollution for a long time, while Dhaka has continued to rank among the most polluted cities | Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

The team used data from the Global Burden of Disease Study (GBD) to measure PM2.5 air pollution exposure and its consequences in 185 countries.

GBD is a collaboration of over 1,800 researchers from 127 countries, spearheaded by principal investigator Christopher JL Murray of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

They quantified the impact of air pollution on life expectancy for each country as well as on a global scale.

"The fact that fine particle air pollution is a major global killer is already well known," said Joshua Apte, who led the study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters on August 22, by the American Chemical Society.

"We were able to systematically identify how air pollution also substantially shortens lives around the world. What we found is that air pollution has a very large effect on survival -- on average about a year globally," said Apte.

"For much of Asia, if air pollution were removed as a risk for death, 60 year olds would have a 15 per cent to 20 per cent chance of living to age 85 or older," he added.

Currently, 95 percent of the global population is exposed to levels of PM2.5 that exceed WHO’s recommended level, the authors wrote.

The study also found that the death rate from air pollution has increased. They calculated 3.5 million people died globally from breathing PM2.5 in 1990 while 4.2 million were killed by the same type of air pollution in 2015.