Home Latest News Air Pollution Reduces Average Pakistani’s Lifespan by 3.9 Years

Air Pollution Reduces Average Pakistani’s Lifespan by 3.9 Years

Annual report of Air Quality Life Index warns particulate pollution has increased by 49.9 percent from 1998 to 2021

by Staff Report

File photo of smog in Lahore. Arif Ali—AFP

Describing particulate air pollution as the second greatest threat to human health in Pakistan after cardiovascular disease, the 2023 Air Quality Life Index report warned that it was taking 3.9 years off the life of the average Pakistani.

“In contrast, child and maternal malnutrition, and maternal and neonatal disorders reduce average life expectancy by 2.7 years,” it said, adding that all of Pakistan’s 238 million people live in areas where the annual average particulate pollution level exceeds WHO guidelines, while 98.3 percent lived in areas that exceeded the country’s own national air quality standard of 15 µg/m3.

Emphasizing that particulate pollution had increased by 49.9 percent from 1998 to 2021, it warned this had further reduced life expectancy by 1.5 years. “In the most polluted provinces of the country—Punjab, Islamabad Capital Territory and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa—165.5 million residents or 69.5 percent of Pakistan’s population are on track to lose between 3.7 to 4.6 years of life expectancy on average relative to the WHO guideline and between 2.7 to 3.6 years relative to the national standard if the current pollution levels persist,” it added.

If Pakistan were to bring its particulate pollution in line with WHO guidelines, read the report, residents of Karachi would gain 2.7 years of life expectancy; residents of Lahore 7.5 years; and residents of Islamabad 4.5 years.

The annual report from the University of Chicago’s Energy Policy Institute quantifies the influence of air pollution on life expectancy. It has also noted that a rise in air pollution increases the occurrence of several mental health disorders like chronic anxiety, seasonal depression and mood sicknesses.

On the rest of the world, it states that Bangladesh, India and Nepal—alongside Pakistan—are the global epicenter of pollution. It states Bangladesh has been ranked the most polluted country in the world according to the Air Quality Index, adding that since 2013, India has been responsible for approximately 59 percent of the global rise in pollution. If Bangladesh were to reduce its particulate pollution in line with WHO guidelines of average PM2.5 levels measuring 5 micrograms per cubic meter, it said, the lifespan of average citizens could be increased by 6.8 years.

Similarly, in India—whose capital New Delhi has been declared the “world’s most polluted megacity”—the report states that particulate pollution reduces the average lifespan by 5.3 years. By contrast, it says China has made significant strides in combatting air pollution since 2014, noting there was a 42.3 percent reduction in air pollution levels between 2013 and 2021. If these improvements are sustained, it said, the average Chinese citizen could gain an additional 2.2 years of life.

The report has also warned of threats posed by wildfires, tied to climate change, as triggers for pollution across the globe.

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