Air Pollution Levels

Recent research published in Nature implies that this estimate may be conservative, showing that if air pollution levels were decreased to WHO limits, global life expectancy would rise by more than two years.
A worldwide group of scientists combined data on exposure to delicate particulate matter (PM2.5) with data on health impacts to estimate the global burden of air pollution. In 2015, the researchers projected that PM2.5 exposure caused 3.2 million premature deaths from cardiovascular disease, 1.8 million premature deaths from respiratory illness, and 1.4 million early deaths from cancer.
Despite extensive research on the dangers of air pollution, this is the first study to quantify PM2.5’s worldwide effect on longevity. Nevertheless, the results imply that air pollution affects world health in meaningful ways and that lowering exposure to PM2.5 might significantly impact life expectancy. According to the report, most early deaths from air pollution were concentrated in poor and medium-income nations. For example, 2.2 million of the 3.2 million preventable deaths from cardiovascular disease occur in poor and middle-income countries. Exposure to air pollution is likely to blame, along with the lack of access to medical treatment and generally lousy living circumstances. Although the results of this research are disturbing, they serve as a clear call to action. To safeguard world health, reducing exposure to air pollution is crucial. This may be accomplished in several ways, including regulating the industry and automobile emissions and increasing investment in clean energy. The authors concluded that life expectancy worldwide would have increased by 5.5 months in 2016 if PM2.5 levels were decreased to the WHO-recommended limit of 10 micrograms per cubic meter. They also discovered that if PM2.5 levels were reduced to the more ambitious WHO objective of 2.5 micrograms per cubic meter, life expectancy would have been 1.8 years higher.


  • Lelieveld, J., Pozzer, A., Pöschl, U., Fnais, M., Haines, A., & Münzel, T. (2020). Loss of life expectancy from air pollution compared to other risk factors: a worldwide perspective. Cardiovascular Research116(11), 1910-1917.
  • Apte, J. S., Brauer, M., Cohen, A. J., Ezzati, M., & Pope III, C. A. (2018). Ambient PM2. 5 reduces global and regional life expectancy. Environmental Science & Technology Letters5(9), 546-551.

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