There are currently an estimated 4.5 billion people around the world exposed to particulate pollution levels that are at least twice what the World Health Organization (WHO) considers safe. India is one of the most polluted countries in the world and air pollution is a major threat to health. But, a new tool developed by EPIC, the Air Quality-Life Index (AQLI), reveals that if India reduced its air pollution to comply with the WHO’s air quality standard its people could live about 4 years longer on average, or a combined more than 4.7 billion life years. If the country reduced pollution to comply with its national standards, its people could live more than 1 year longer on average, or a combined more than 1.6 billion life years. Some of the greatest gains would be seen in the country’s largest cities, such as Delhi. There, people could live 6 years longer if the country met its national standards, and 9 years longer if the country met WHO standards. The people of Kolkata and Mumbai could live roughly 3.5 years longer if the country met WHO standards. India is already taking action to reduce pollution. EPIC-India is currently working with the central government and several state pollution control boards to implement India’s first emissions trading program for particulate pollution. The program will be the world’s first trading program specifically for particulate pollution.

“High levels of air pollution are a part of people’s lives in India, just as they were in the U.S., England, Japan and other countries in the past. The last several decades have seen tremendous progress in many of these countries, but this progress did not happen by accident—it was the result of policy choices. As India navigates the dual and conflicting goals for economic growth and environmental quality, the AQLI provides a tool to make the benefits of policies to reduce air pollution concrete.” – Michael Greenstone, Director, EPIC

More about the AQLI

The Air Quality-Life Index (AQLI) translates particulate pollution concentrations into the impact on lifespans. Specifically, it provides a reliable measure of the potential gain in life expectancy communities could see if their pollution concentrations are brought into compliance with World Health Organization, national, or some other standard. Unlike much of the research linking air pollution and human health consequences, the AQLI is based on the consequences of sustained exposure to air pollution and plausibly isolates the impact from other factors that could affect health. It serves as an important complement to the frequently used Air Quality Index (AQI), which is a complicated function of air pollution concentrations and does not map directly to health.