High levels of air pollution can shorten life expectancy by an average of nearly 21 years.
That’s the verdict from scientific data expert Antibodies.com, which has published a report highlighting that people living in countries with a particulate matter (PM) concentration exceeding an annual average level of 22 microgrammes per cubic metre (µg/m3 PM2.5) are considerably more likely to die before they reach the age of 60.
Cameroon has the highest level of PM2.5 air pollution at 105µg/m3 and an average life expectancy of 58.1 years – this is compared with Sweden, which has the lowest level of pollution at 5µg/m3 and has a much longer average lifespan of 82.4 years.
New Zealand and Australia also boast lower pollution rates and higher life expectancies – the former has has pollution levels of 6µg/m3 and an average lifespan of 82.2 years, while the average Australian lives 82.9 years and is exposed to 7µg/m3 of particulate matter in the air they breathe.
The report shows six of the 15 countries with a low life expectancy emit levels of PM2.5 pollution above the global average of 45.5µg/m3.
Even more worryingly, three countries have more than double this amount of pollution, with more than 100µg/m3 produced.
PM2.5 is particularly dangerous, as smaller pollution particles that measure less than 10µg in size can “easily penetrate lung passageways” and cause “significant cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and respiratory damage”.
Another new study, led by researchers at the University of Washington, Columbia University and the University at Buffalo, suggests air pollution could be as harmful as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.