Urban terror: Air pollution reduces life span by 3.2 years in India

  • Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Feb 22, 2015 10:27 IST

A new study says that high particulate matter (PM) pollution reduces life expectancy by 3.2 years for 660 million Indians in polluted urban conglomerates, including Delhi, which means a loss of 2.1 billion life years.

“The loss of more than two billion life years is a substantial price to pay for air pollution,” says the study done by researchers at Chicago University, Yale University and Harvard University.”This may still be an underestimate of the costs of air pollution, because we do not account for the impact of other air pollutants.”

The impact of particulate matter pollution on people from the lower economic strata is higher as they don’t have capability to deal with the growing hazard. And it is because of their inability, they suffer higher on account of the fall in life expectancy, said Micheal Greenstone of Chicago University, the lead author of the study.

This inference is important considering that air pollution in India is considered a problem created by elite with the governments not willing to take harsh decisions that can impact business.

The study says it makes economic sense to combat air pollution as it “increases productivity due to reduced rate of sickness”. Another author Rohini Pande of Harvard Kennedy School says reforms of thae current form of regulation would allow for health improvements that lead to increased growth.

High exposure to particulate of 2.5 microns that penetrate deep inside the lungs can cause cardiovascular problems apart from enhancing breathing ailments. Extremely high exposure for a long time can also cause lung cancer.

The study also says that 54.5% of Indians are exposed to high levels of fine particulates (PM2.5) as air quality in these regions don’t meet the national air safety standard. The Indian standard of 40 unit grams in cubic meter of air (ug/m3) is four times of the one prescribed by the World Health Organisation (WHO)."Nearly every Indian lives in an area with PM 2.5 pollution above the WHO standard," the study said.


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