New research from European scientists has found that regular exposure to air pollution is a lot worse than previously thought
Air pollution for city-dwellers is nothing new , but many might be horrified to learn how badly the problem could be affecting them.
Original estimates put the damage of exposure to air pollution at a couple of years off the average human’s lifespan. But a new formula developed at a university in Denmark paints a much bleaker picture.
It estimates that air pollution will be responsible for knocking a DECADE off your life expectancy.
Professor Mikael Skou Andersen from Aarhus University calculated that an increase of pollution particles by 10 micrograms per cubic metre will kill the population 10 years earlier.
The UK government is currently facing legal action from environmental group ClientEarth for failing to properly tackle nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution.
But Professor Andersen believes governments will never take the problem of air pollution seriously until someone can prove the financial cost of premature deaths. This was the goal that spurred his research.
“The existing literature is ambiguous and there are differences in the approaches adopted in the EU and the USA for how to account for such costs,” he said.
“People are willing to pay a price to reduce risks for dying prematurely, provided we have an understanding of the implications and magnitudes of such risks.”
In the United States, cost-benefit analysis of reducing air pollution is calculated based on the number of lives saved – and each life is currently estimated to be worth $7.4 million (£5.7million).
However, Europe estimates cost based on life expectancy and assumes that most victims are in their 70s and 80s. If only a year or two is lost from this age bracket, then there’s not much of a financial consequence.
But if between nine and 11 years – what Professor Andersen’s research shows – is lost, then the financial impact is much greater. In fact, it could run into the billions.
“There is concern about air pollution and its health impacts, more so following ‘diesel-gate’,” said Prof. Andersen.
“But many European countries are unable to meet the air pollution standards they have agreed to in the European Union. We need to understand the true impact of long-term exposure to air pollution to develop better informed policies and reduce fossil fuel consumption.”