Indians could live longer if air quality improves: Study

Indians could live about four years longer on an average or more than 4.7 billion life years combined if it complies with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) air quality standards, a new study on the impact of air pollution on life expectancy has revealed.

The study also said that even if only the national standards are met, Indians could live more than one year longer on an average. The compliance of WHO standards could also see Delhiites, who breathe the world’s most polluted air, gain the most as they could live up to nine years longer and six years more if national standards are met, the study added.

The findings were part of the Air Quality-Life Index (AQLI) study carried out by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) and led by Michael Greenstone, director, EPIC. Pollution data set of fifty most populous districts in India was collated.

This was done using satellite and ground monitoring data.

The AQLI was developed on the basis of two studies, published in 2013 and 2017, that analysed the adverse impact of air pollution in China on life expectancy. Using the results from the earlier studies, the AQLI model made projections for Indian districts. The earlier research studies had analysed almost a decade long data on pollution, respiratory diseases and mortality in China to arrive at a conclusion that heavy air pollution was cutting life spans by almost 3.1 years in some of China’s most polluted regions.

“Life expectancy is very difficult to compute as there are several factors at play. For instance, polluted areas are also often poorer areas so there are different factors affecting health. We have used the models from the China study to make projections and estimate pollution’s impact on life expectancy,” said Anant Sudarshan, India Director, EPIC.

He added, ” With rising pollution, there is a rise in respiratory diseases. There have been individual studies on health impacts, but this is the first comprehensive study to look at the net impact of air pollution on life expectancy.”

The Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change has in the past denied international reports that air pollution is directly linked to mortality in the country. Earlier in February, former environment minister Late Anil Dave had played down the ‘State of Global Air’ report that said air pollution was causing more premature deaths in India than China.