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Children born today will die 20 months sooner than expected because of air pollution

The new research shows that air pollution now rivals smoking as a fact in life expectancy reduction.

Image: Shutterstock/Tatiana Grozetskaya

THE LIFESPAN OF children born around the world today will be reduced by up to 20 months as a result of global air pollution, a new study has claimed. 

The State of Global Air research carried out by the Boston-based, Health Effects Institute, put toxic air in fifth place ahead of alcohol use and road deaths, as a leading killer worldwide. 

The report claimed that in China, where air pollution and smog is a serious issue for citizens, life expectancy is reduced by around 30 months, while in African countries it is reduced by 24 months. 

Globally, the average reduction to a person’s lifespan as a result of toxic air is around 20 months, and is attributed to diseases such as lung cancer, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and heart disease. 

The inhalation of particulate matter (PM) – which is a combination of microscopic particles found in the air as a result of pollutants such as fossil fuels – is the cause of many lung diseases. 

In 2017 alone, air pollution contributed to almost five million deaths in countries across the world – the equivalent of nearly 1 in 10 people. 

“Air pollution exposure is linked with increased hospitalisations, disability, and early death from respiratory disease, stroke, lung cancer, and diabetes, as well as communicable diseases like pneumonia,” it said. 

Air pollution collectively reduced life expectancy by one year and eight months on average worldwide, a global impact rivaling that of smoking. 

“This means a child born today will die 20 months sooner, on average than would be expected in the absence of air pollution.”

While researchers behind the report said there has been some gains in reducing air pollution and PM exposure, it added, ” much work remains to be done to further reduce air pollution and its heavy toll on population health”. 

Last year, statistics showed that around half a million people in Ireland are estimated to have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a disease which causes breathlessness, coughing and regular chest infections. 

Meanwhile, the Irish Cancer Society said lung cancer affects 2,500 Irish people every year, and claiming the lives of more Irish men and women than any other type of cancer. 

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