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Study: Clean air likely to raise life expectancy by 7.7 years in Dhaka

  • Published at 08:02 am September 1st, 2021
dhaka Air_Pollution-Mehedi-Hasan
Air pollution in Dhaka Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan consistently rank among the top 5 most polluted countries in the world

Curbing air pollution in compliance with World Health Organization recommendations will likely raise the average life expectancy in Dhaka by 7.7 years, according to a report released by a US research group on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the average life expectancy in Bangladesh would have been 5.6 years higher if pollution levels did not exceed the WHO guideline, says an analysis of data from the Air Quality Life Index (AQLI), conducted by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC).

The study has found that particulate pollution cuts global life expectancy by nearly 2.2 years, reports UNB.

Bangladesh, one of the most densely-populated countries in the world, has been struggling with air pollution for a long time.

Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, is often found to be the most polluted city in the world in global indices.

Also Read- Air pollution in India could cut life expectancy by 9 years

Particulate matter pollution continues to rise in Bangladesh. Since 1998, the average annual particulate pollution has increased by 15.3%, cutting 0.9 years off the lives of the average Bangladesh residents over the years, according to the report.

In each of the 64 districts, the levels of particulate matter were found to be at least three times higher than the WHO guideline.

The most polluted areas of the country are Rajshahi and Khulna divisions as their residents are exposed to pollution that is more than seven times the WHO guideline, reducing life expectancy by more than six years on average, the study notes.

Bangladesh consistently ranks among top 5 most polluted countries

According to the EPIC study, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan account for nearly a quarter of the global population and consistently rank among the top five most polluted countries in the world.

As a result, South Asia accounts for 60% of the person-years that are expected to be lost globally due to pollution levels exceeding the WHO guideline.

The average life expectancy across these four countries would be 5.6 years higher if pollution concentrations complied with the WHO guideline.

In each of these countries, the impact of air pollution on life expectancy is substantially higher than that of other large health threats. Smoking, for instance, reduces life expectancy in these countries by as much as 1.8 years; unsafe water and sanitation by as much as 1.2 years; and alcohol and drug use by about a year.  

Also Read - No respite from pollution as Dhaka’s air quality still unhealthy

Global situation

New data from the AQLI underscores the health threat of a world without policy action. 

Unless global particulate air pollution is reduced to meet the WHO guideline, the average person is set to lose 2.2 years off their lives. The residents of the most-polluted areas of the world could see their lives cut short by 5 years or more.

The average global citizen is exposed to particulate pollution concentrations of 32µg/m³ — over 3 times the WHO’s guideline of 10µg/m³. If this level of particulate pollution persists, the health consequences of air pollution could shave 2.2 years off global life expectancy compared to a world in which all countries met the WHO guidelines.

In other words, permanently reducing air pollution according to the WHO limit could increase global average life expectancy from roughly 72 to 74 years, and in total, the world’s population could gain 17 billion life-years.

Measured in terms of life expectancy, ambient particulate pollution is consistently the world’s greatest risk to human health. 

First-hand cigarette smoke, for instance, reduces global average life expectancy by about 1.8 years. Alcohol use reduces life expectancy by 7 months; unsafe water and sanitation, 7 months; HIV/AIDS, 4 months; malaria, 3 months; and conflict and terrorism, just 18 days. 

Thus, the impact of particulate pollution on life expectancy is comparable to that of smoking, twice that of alcohol and drug use, three times that of unsafe water, five times that of HIV/AIDS, and 29 times that of conflict and terrorism. 

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