If the air pollution were to be reduced, people in India as well the world would live a year longer, finds a new study.
"Here, we were able to systematically identify how air pollution also substantially shortens lives around the world," said lead researcher Joshua Apte from The University of Texas at Austin in the US.
‘The benefit of improving the quality of air will be large especially among the elderly population, as they would have a 15-20 percent higher chance of living to the age of 85 or older’
"What we found is that air pollution has a very large effect on survival -- on average about a year globally," Apte added.
For the study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters, the researchers looked at outdoor air pollution from particulate matter (PM) smaller than 2.5 microns.
These fine particles that can come from power plants, cars and trucks, fires, agriculture and industrial emissions can enter the lungs.
Even breathing PM2.5 is associated with increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, respiratory diseases and cancer.
The team used data from the Global Burden of Disease Study to measure PM2.5 air pollution exposure and its consequences in 185 countries.
They then quantified the national impact on life expectancy for each country as well as on a global scale.
"A body count saying 90,000 Americans or 1.1 million Indians die per year from air pollution is large but faceless," Apte said.
"Saying that, on average, a population lives a year less than they would have otherwise -- that is something relatable," he added.
In the context of other significant phenomena negatively affecting human survival rates, Apte said this is a big number.
"For example, it's considerably larger than the benefit in survival we might see if we found cures for both lung and breast cancer combined," he said.
"In countries like India and China, the benefit for elderly people of improving air quality would be especially large. For much of Asia, if air pollution were removed as a risk for death, 60-year-olds would have a 15 percent to 20 percent higher chance of living to age 85 or older," Apte said.