HEI report finds current levels of air pollution have reduced life expectancy by 1.67 years on average worldwide
The Health Effects Institute (HEI) has released the annual State of Global Air (SoGA) 2019 report and website. This year’s report includes the latest results on air pollution exposure and its health burden around the world based on the 2017 GBD (Global Burden of Disease) study.
Among the findings of the report is that current levels of air pollution levels have reduced life expectancy by 1 year and 8 months (1.67 years) on average worldwide. Air pollution now reduces average life expectancy by almost as much as tobacco use (1 yr, 10 mo).
Numbers of deaths attributable to air pollution in countries around the world in 2017. SoGA.
To track outdoor air quality, the report focused on concentrations of PM2.5 and tropospheric ozone. This assessment also tracks exposure to household air pollution from burning fuels such as coal, wood, or biomass for cooking.
In 2017, air pollution ranked fifth among all mortality risk factors globally, accounting for nearly 5 million early deaths and 147 million years of healthy life lost. Ambient PM2.5 accounted for 2.9 million deaths, while household air pollution accounted for 1.6 million deaths. Ozone accounted for about 472,000 early deaths in 2017.
More than 90% of people worldwide live in areas exceeding the WHO Guideline for healthy air. More than half live in areas that do not even meet WHO’s least-stringent air quality target.
The loss of life expectancy is not borne equally across all regions and countries. The least-developed countries—where air pollution exposures are often the highest—face the largest declines in life expectancy related to air pollution.
Because background life expectancies are often already lower in these countries, these declines represent a larger proportional impact on the overall lifespan compared with more developed countries, further widening the gaps between more- and less-developed regions in terms of air pollution’s overall health burden.
The growing burden of disease from air pollution is among the major challenges facing national governments and public health officials, with far-reaching implications for national economies and human well-being. Better understanding the sources of air pollution and key contributors to its health burden is a critical next step for implementing effective air pollution control policies. In each country, it is important to parse the critical interplay among trends in air pollution levels, population structure, underlying disease, and economic factors that contribute to the estimates of health burden and loss of life expectancy. Knowledge of these trends is essential to understanding patterns in the burden of disease across countries and regions and vital to informing actions to reduce pollution in ways that have the greatest potential to benefit health.—“State of Global Air 2019”
Health Effects Institute. 2019. State of Global Air 2019