A report from the University of Chicago’s Energy Policy Institute (EPIC) reveals that escalating air pollution in Pakistan’s severely affected areas like Lahore, Sheikhupura, Kasur, and Peshawar could potentially curtail life expectancy by a minimum of seven years. This insight comes from the institute’s latest Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) released on Tuesday.
- Between 1998 and 2021, particulate pollution in Pakistan surged by 49.9%.
- An overwhelming 98.3% of the nation’s inhabitants reside in regions that surpass its own established air quality benchmark.
- Approximately 59% of the global rise in air pollution is attributed to India.
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Pakistan’s Second Major Health Threat
According to the Air Quality Life Index (AQLI), a metric that translates the impact of particulate air pollution into its corresponding effect on life expectancy.
The pervasive issue of particulate air pollution stands as the second most substantial threat to the overall health and well-being of individuals in Pakistan. This alarming revelation places it only behind cardiovascular diseases in terms of its potential to cause harm.
The Threat of Air Pollution to Public Health
Particulate air pollution, often consisting of tiny airborne particles and droplets, deeply infiltrates the air we breathe, posing a grave hazard to public health.
It’s distressing to note that its negative consequences are so significant that it ranks as the runner-up among the top risks faced by the population.
Life Expectancy Impact
The consequences are starkly evident in the numbers. On an average scale, the presence of particulate air pollution is responsible for a distressing reduction of 3.9 years in the average life expectancy of individuals in the country.
This statistic serves as a poignant reminder of the urgent need for comprehensive measures to address this issue and safeguard the health and longevity of the people. As this threat cannot be ignored, there arises an imperative for concerted efforts to combat and mitigate the impact of particulate air pollution on human lives.
Clean Air vs. Nutrition Challenges on Life Expectancy
Achieving compliance with the World Health Organization (WHO) standards, which dictate maintaining an average annual PM 2.5 concentration at 5 micrograms per cubic meter, could potentially add 3.9 years to the average lifespan of residents in Pakistan.
On the other hand, child and maternal malnutrition, along with maternal and neonatal disorders, contribute to a decrease in the average life expectancy by 2.7 years.
Air Pollution’s Wide Reach in Pakistan
The entirety of Pakistan’s population, totaling 240 million individuals, resides in regions where the annual average concentration of particulate air pollution surpasses the established World Health Organization (WHO) guideline.
The report further reveals that a staggering 98.3% of the nation’s inhabitants inhabit areas that surpass Pakistan’s own national air quality standard of 15 micrograms per cubic meter.
As per the Air Quality Life Index (AQLI), the years between 1998 and 2021 witnessed a notable 49.9% rise in the average annual particulate pollution in Pakistan.
This escalation contributed to a consequential reduction of 1.5 years in life expectancy.
Pakistan’s Air Pollution Impact
Within the provinces of Punjab, Islamabad, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa—widely recognized as the most polluted regions in Pakistan—a significant population of 65.5 million individuals, which accounts for approximately 69.5% of the nation’s populace, faces the prospect of a decline in life expectancy.
Should the existing pollution levels persist, these residents are projected to experience a reduction in life expectancy ranging from 3.7 to 4.6 years as compared to the WHO guideline, and from 2.7 to 3.6 years relative to the national standard, as reported by AQLI.
According to the report, adherence to WHO’s guidelines could yield significant gains in life expectancy for various cities in Pakistan.
If implemented, Karachi’s residents might see an increase of 2.7 years in life expectancy, while Lahore’s population could potentially gain 7.5 years, and Islamabad’s inhabitants could expect an improvement of around 4.5 years in life expectancy.
Furthermore, the report highlighted that India shoulders the responsibility for approximately 59% of the global rise in pollution since 2013.