Air pollution will shorten the life expectancy of children by 20 months on average, with kids in South Asian countries such as India and Pakistan most vulnerable, a new report says.
According to the 2019 State of Global Air (SOGA) report, released on Wednesday, air pollution is the fifth leading factor in mortality across the world, responsible for more deaths than alcohol, malnutrition and drugs.
Particularly at risk are countries in Asia and Africa, where high levels of lung-clogging particulate matter (PM 2.5) and the regular use of fuels like coal and charcoal for home cooking result in a dramatically reduced life expectancy.
PM 2.5 are dangerous airborne pollution particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter.
“The growing burden of disease from air pollution is among the major challenges facing national governments and public health officials, with far-reaching implications for national economies and human well-being,” the report said.
The problem is particularly pronounced in countries such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, which in the past year have seen cities blanketed in thick clouds of toxic air for days at a time.
On average, the SOGA report said, air pollution means a child born today in South Asia will die 30 months earlier than he or she would have done otherwise. Globally, that figure is 20 months.
“Major PM 2.5 sources in India include household burning of solid fuels; dust from construction, roads, and other activities; industrial and power plant burning of coal; brick production; transportation; and diesel-powered equipment,” the report said.