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05 April 2019, 09:24 | Edward Lowe
Adnan Abidi Reuters
In total, the report says 147 million years of healthy life were lost in 2017 globally due to pollution.
"It took about a dozen years and a recession for the United States to achieve the same percentage reduction in particulate pollution that China has achieved in such a short time", said Michael Greenstone, Milton Friedman Distinguished Service Professor in Economics and Director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC).
It shows that breathing toxic air - both inside and outside the home - will cut the life expectancy of a baby born today by an average of 20 months, compared to a 21-month fall in life expectancy in a smoker.
South Asia - Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan - is the most polluted region, with over 1.5 million air-pollution related deaths.
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Toxic air will shorten children's lives by nearly two years and will have the greatest impact in South Asia, according to a special report on global exposure to air pollution and its disease burden, published by the US-based Health Effects Institute.
Stroke, diabetes, heart attack, lung cancer, and chronic lung disease contributed to five million deaths in 2017. Fine particles in ambient air from household air pollution also eats away at health.
"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.
Although young children face particular threats, such as stunted lung development that will last throughout their lives, older adults are also at risk: almost nine in 10 deaths attributable to air pollution were in the over-50s.
Household air pollution is another key issue, with 3.6 billion people estimated to be exposed globally, with a "double whammy" for the health of those also exposed to high levels of outdoor pollution.
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China and India come up very often in the report and are together responsible for over half the global deaths.
"These and future initiatives have the potential, if fully implemented as part of a sustained commitment to air quality, to result in significant health benefits in coming years", Robert O'Keefe, Vice-president of HEI, told Press Trust of India.
"In recent years China has begun to move aggressively to reduce air pollution...."
India has another unique concern with regard to air pollution - a large population in the country still uses the old-school method of burning solid fuels like coal, wood, charcoal, dung, and other forms of biomass to cook food, and heat and light their houses. Pakistan was ranked third, and Bangladesh fifth in the State of Global Air 2019 report.
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