Disasters & Accidents

Air pollution reducing life-expectancy by 6.8 years in Bangladesh, study finds

Dhaka, Aug 29 (EFE).- Bangladesh’s air is the most polluted in the world, gravely impacting its citizens’ health and reducing their average life expectancy by at least 6.8 years, a global study conducted by an US university showed Tuesday.

The Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago released its Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) report, which showed that the world’s most polluted countries were located in South Asia, including Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan, where 22.9 percent of the global population lives.

The researchers used peer-reviewed techniques to calculate the influence of air pollution concentrations on life expectancy.

The report found that all of Bangladesh’s 164.8 million inhabitants live in areas where the annual average PM2.5 particulate pollution level exceeds the WHO guideline of 5 micrograms per cubic meter by 14 to 16 times.

It also placed India as the second-most polluted country, with its capital, Delhi, being the most polluted megacity in the world.

Using satellite data, the researchers at the university found that the annual average PM2.5 particulate pollution in Delhi is 126.5 milligrams per cubic meter – more than 25 times the WHO guideline.

“While some Indians breathe the most polluted air in the world, the most polluted country overall is Bangladesh,” the report said.

“Fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5) shortens the average Bangladeshi resident’s life expectancy by 6.8 years,” said the report.

It added that particulate pollution was the second-greatest threat to human health in Bangladesh, behind only cardiovascular diseases.

Experts in Bangladesh also found serious repercussions of the country’s high air pollution on public health.

“Due to the pollution of lead and mercury, many babies are affected in the mother’s womb or their talents are not being developed properly after birth,” Ahmad Kamruzzaman Majumder, Chairman, Department of Environmental Science, Stamford University Bangladesh, told EFE.

“The family’s medical expenses have increased as they often have to go to the doctor with allergies, lung diseases, etc. Due to pollution-related diseases, people’s working hours are being disrupted, and performances are falling, creating a negative impact on GDP,” added Majumder, who is also the Founding Chairman of the Center for Atmospheric Pollution Studies.

Bangladeshi authorities blamed India for part of the pollution in the country, saying that they were working hard to reduce emissions from other sources such as brickfields, unfit vehicles, large construction projects, and the use of wood for cooking.

“About 30 to 40 percent of its pollution comes from transboundary sources, mainly from India, which we can’t control,” said Ziaul Haque, a director of the Department of Environment.

“The government is trying to reduce the main sources of the remaining 65 percent of pollution,” he said.

According to the AQLI report, particulate pollution remains the world’s greatest external risk to human health, with an impact on life expectancy comparable to that of smoking and more than three times that of alcohol use and unsafe water.

“Three-quarters of air pollution’s impact on global life expectancy occurs in just six countries: Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, China, Nigeria and Indonesia, where people lose one to more than six years off their lives because of the air they breathe,” said Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Distinguished Service Professor in Economics and creator of the AQLI, along with other experts at the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago. EFE


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