People in North India may lose 7 years of life due to air pollution: Study
People living in the Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP) region are expected to lose 7 years of their life because of severe air pollution, a new analysis released on Thursday has said.
The Air Quality Life Index (AQLI), produced by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), shows there has been a 72% increase in pollution from 1998 to 2016 in the region which accounts for 40% of India’s population. In 1998, the impact on people’s lives from dirty air would have been 3.7 years of life expectancy.
The analysis also states that citizens in the IGP region which includes Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal are exposed to far higher levels of air pollution and hence have shorter lives.
In 1998, citizens living outside of the IGP region lost 1.2 years of life relative to what it would have been if air quality met the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. In 2016, citizens in non-IGP states lost about 2.6 years of life compared to 7 years in IGP region.
During the release of the analysis, Dr Arvind Kumar, chest surgeon from Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, raised an alarm about the health cost of air pollution. “It’s a public health emergency in Delhi. Half a decade of concentrated focus on air pollution with zero results. I am seeing 28-year-old non-smokers with stage 4 lung cancer. It’s a very painful experience for me. I am very angry because I am losing young patients to air pollution.”
He showed images of lungs of a 14-year-old with black pollution induced spots. Kumar said that in 1988 when he joined AIIMS, 90% of lung cancer cases were in smokers but now 50% of such cases are being seen in non-smokers. “Air pollution is a group 1 carcinogen. The contents of polluted air is similar to cigarette smoke,” Kumar added.
EPIC had released a similar study for Delhi earlier this year which stated residents in Delhi could extend their life by 3.35 years if the National Clean Air Programme is implemented. NCAP has a target of 20% to 30% reduction in PM 2.5 (fine, respirable pollution particles) and PM 10 (coarse pollution particles) concentration in 102 non-attainment cities (cities that did not meet the annual PM 10 national standard from 2011 to 2015) by 2024 under the NCAP over 2017 levels.
How is AQLI calculated?
The AQLI estimates the relationship between air pollution and life expectancy based on findings from a research study in China.
In China, areas in the north have traditionally experienced higher levels of pollution because of a government policy initiated during (1950 to 1980) that gave those living north of the Huai River, where it is colder, free coal to power boilers for heating.
While the policy’s purpose was to provide warmth in the winter, it resulted in a high and differential reliance on coal north of the Huai River. Combined, these two policies created a unique demarcation line where the researchers were able to study the impact of high levels of pollution over a long period of time and to isolate that impact from other factors that affect life expectancy.