PARIS: Pakistan is ranked among the three worst-affected Asian countries by a ‘pandemic’ of air pollution that shortened lives, according to new research published in the journal Cardiovascular Research on Tuesday.
Scientists warned that air pollution shortened lives worldwide by nearly three years on average, and causes 8.8 million premature deaths annually. They added that the worst-hit region is Asia, where the average lifespan is cut 4.1 years in China, 3.9 years in India, and 3.8 years in Pakistan.
Eliminating the toxic cocktail of molecules and lung-clogging particles cast off by burning oil, gas and coal would restore a full year of life expectancy, they said. “Air pollution is a larger public health risk than tobacco smoking,” lead author Jos Lelieveld of the Max Planck Institute in Mainz, Germany said.
“Much of it can be avoided by replacing fossil fuels with clean renewable energy.”
Compared to other causes of premature death, air pollution kills 19 times more people each year than malaria, nine times more than HIV/AIDS, and three times more than alcohol, the study found.
Coronary heart disease and stroke account for almost half of those deaths, with lung diseases and other non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure accounting for most of the rest.
Only 6% of mortality stemming from polluted air is due to lung cancer. “Our results show there is an ‘air pollution pandemic’,” said senior author Thomas Munzel of the Max Planck Institute’s departments of chemistry and cardiology.
“Both air pollution and smoking are preventable, but over the past decades much less attention has been paid to air pollution than to smoking, especially among cardiologists.”
In India’s Uttar Pradesh—home to 200 million—small particle pollution by itself slashes life expectancy by 8.5 years, while in China’s Hebei Province – with the population of 74 million – the shortfall is nearly six years, according to the Air Quality Life Index, developed by the Energy Policy Institute of Chicago.
African lives are also foreshortened by 3.1 years on average, with people in some nations—Chad, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Nigeria, and Cote d’Ivoire—losing 4.5 to 7.3 years. Among wealthier nations, the Soviet Union’s former satellite states have the deadliest pollution, especially in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania.
The least-impacted regions of the world are the Americas, western and northern Europe, and small island states. Indoor pollution—mainly from cookstoves fuelled by biomass or coal—is also a major killer, but was not considered in the study.