What are the key findings of Chicago University’s Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) 2023 study?
Air pollution is the greatest external threat to life expectancy on Earth now — the average person globally is losing 2.3 years. This is also deeply unequal — some parts are relatively clean while in some places, air pollution is taking even more years off a person’s life. South Asia is the most polluted region — in India, breathing the air that exists today over a lifetime means an average Indian is losing about five years of their life expectancy.

What exactly does particulate air pollution do to human beings?

Its most dangerous component comprises very small particles. Humans have cilia in their lungs, hairs that catch large particles which we can cough out. But smaller particles, as in PM2.5, evade these and enter a person’s bloodstream and organs. When these are associated with fossil fuels, they also have bits of metal in them. These oxidise lung cells and cause respiratory diseases. They also impact blood vessels, increasing blood pressure or creating clots, leading to heart problems, strokes and and other deadly impacts that cause a loss of life.