The Lethal Grasp of Air Pollution: Its Impact on Life Expectancy

Air quality is something many of us take for granted, yet millions in Asia and Africa continue to live without this basic right. Studies conducted by EPIC at University of Chicago’s Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) study reveal an alarming reality: pollution is taking an incredible toll, robbing up to eight years off life expectancies in six nations such as Bangladesh, India, Pakistan China Indonesia Nigeria. We will investigate its alarming repercussions here before exploring its causes – all while drawing our audience closer.

PM2.5 Pollution

One of the principal contributors to air pollution’s devastating effect is PM2.5 pollution, defined as particles with diameters less than 2.5 microns – for context, human hair measures 50-70 microns, making clear how easily such microscopic particles can penetrate our lungs, bypassing natural defense mechanisms in our bodies and affect health in dangerous ways.

India Is at the Center of Pollution

With an estimated population of over 1.4 billion, India – with its massive 1.4 billion-person population – shoulders an enormous burden in this crisis. According to an AQLI study, it accounts for roughly 59% of global pollution increases since 2013.

Data from 2021 indicates that pollution levels in India have skyrocketed, from 56.2 ug/m3 of air in 2020 to an alarmingly high 58.7 ug/m3 in 2021 – over 10 times higher than the World Health Organization’s guideline of 5 micrograms per cubic meter of air! Sadly, nearly all of India’s 1.3 billion citizens experience annual average particulate pollution levels that surpass WHO standards.

Nearly 67.4 percent of India’s population resides in areas which surpass its own national air quality standards, which currently stand at 40 ug/m3 of air, necessitating further examination. Given this issue’s scale and gravity, further investigation should take place.

India’s Air Pollution Crisis

India is facing an air quality crisis caused by various contributing factors. Some key contributors include:

Vehicle Exhaust: Cars that run on fossil fuels represent one of the primary sources of pollution today.

Industry Emissions: India’s rapid industrialization has resulted in significant emissions of pollutants.

Agricultural Practices: Crop residue and agricultural waste burning contributes to seasonal spikes in pollution.

Construction Dust: Urban expansion and construction activities release particulate matter into the air, polluting it further with debris.

Pakistan Struggles with Pollution

Like India, Pakistan is also struggling with severe air pollution issues. Lahore – one of Pakistan’s two-largest cities – ranks as one of the most polluted in Pakistan, according to EPIC’s Air Quality Life Index Report (AQLI). EPIC warns that rising air pollution threatens to reduce life expectancy by at least seven years for residents living there.

Punjab, Islamabad and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces in Pakistan – three of the three most polluted provinces – have projected that 65.5 million residents (69.5 percent of population) may lose between 3.7 to 4.6 years based on WHO guidelines, or even as little as 2.7 to 3.6 years depending on current pollution levels.

AQLI report offers hope. If Pakistan meets WHO air quality guidelines, residents of Karachi could gain an extra 2.7 years in life expectancy; those living in Lahore could enjoy up to 7.5 more years and those in Islamabad might look forward to another 4.5 more years of living.


Pollution across Asia and Africa caused by factors like vehicle exhaust, industrial emissions, agricultural practices and more is taking an ever-greater toll on lives, with Bangladesh, India, Pakistan China Indonesia Nigeria being at the center of this crisis – millions face significantly shorter lives as a result. Urgent measures must be taken to tackle this silent killer to secure a healthier future for all.

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