The menace of air pollution has shortened average Pakistanis’ life expectancy by 3.8 years as compared to the guidelines of the World Health Organisation (WHO), making the situation more vulnerable in other areas where citizens’ life has been shortened by 6.8 years.
This has been revealed by Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) in its recent annual report Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) on account of particulate pollution that is suspended in the air.
The report says that particulate air pollution cuts global life expectancy short by nearly 2.2 years relative to if particulate concentrations everywhere were at the level deemed safe by the WHO. This life expectancy loss makes particulate pollution more devastating than communicable diseases.
The AQLI indicates that owing to particulate pollution, human health is facing the greatest threat globally. South Asia is consistently the most polluted region with the residents seeing their lives shortened by an average of five years relative to what it would be if the region met the WHO guideline. “In South Asia, countries like Pakistan, India, Nepal and Bangladesh are among the world’s most polluted countries having nearly a quarter of the global population where the average resident has been exposed to particulate pollution levels that are 35 per cent higher than in 2000,” the report said.
As far as Pakistan is concerned, the report depicts a deteriorating situation in which over 98 per cent of citizens live in areas where the pollution level has exceeded the country’s own air quality standard of 15 micrograms per cubic meters (ug/m3). “All of Pakistan’s 228.5 million people live in areas where the annual average particulate pollution level exceeds the WHO guideline,” said the report.
Particulate pollution has become the greatest threat to human health in Pakistan, reducing life expectancy by 3.8 years on average. In contrast, child and maternal malnutrition reduce average life expectancy by about 3 years, while smoking reduces average life expectancy by 1.8 months.
“Since the early 2000s, average annual particulate pollution has increased by 40 per cent, leading to an additional 1.2 years of reduction in average life expectancy,” it added.
According to the report, some of the most polluted areas of the country are the provinces of Punjab, Islamabad, and Sindh.
Lahore is the most polluted city in Pakistan, according to the report, where life expectancy has been shortened by 6.8 years. Likewise, in Karachi, this ratio has reached 3.1 years, while in Islamabad life expectancy has been cut down to 4.3 years.