Air pollution affecting life expectancy in city

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 11 Oct 2018 10:14:06


By Kartik Lokhande,

Life expectancy of Nagpurians may increase if the district meets national and WHO standards of air quality

Negligence has its costs. In case of Nagpur city and district put together, neglect towards air quality is bound to have its costs not only in the form of diseases and infections but also life expectancy. The Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) prepared by Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) reveals that life expectancy is affected by at least 3.9 years in case of Nagpur district.

The AQLI translates particulate pollution concentrations into the impact on lifespans. As per the report, the AQLI 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 Organisation (WHO), national, or some other standard. While observing that India is ‘one of the most polluted countries’ in the world, the AQLI reveals that if India is successful in reducing air pollution to comply with the WHO’s air quality standard, the people in the country could live about four years longer on an average. If India reduces air pollution to comply with own national standards, people could live more than one year longer on an average, it adds.

The report is an outcome of compilation and analysis of air quality data for 50 most polluted districts in the country. Nagpur is one of these 50 districts. As per the report, if Nagpur meets national standards for air quality (which are 40 µg/m3), the life expectancy may increase by 0.8 years. If it meets WHO standards (10 µg/m3), life expectancy of Nagpurians may increase by 3.9 years.

In simple terms this means that the present levels of air pollution affect life expectancy of Nagpurians. As per the AQLI report, Particulate Matter (PM2.5) pollution level in Nagpur is 48 µg/m3. The PM2.5 is a term that refers to particulate matter in the atmosphere, with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers. For a layman, 2.5 micrometers is the diameter that is about 3 per cent of the diameter of a human hair.

However, PM pollution is widely believed to be the ‘deadliest form of air pollution’.
As per the data available with NITI Aayog, Maharashtra’s life expectancy at birth was 71.6 years during the period 2010-14. The average ‘at birth’ life expectancy of males during this period was 69.9 years, and that of women was 73.6 years. During the same period, the average life expectancy was 68.5 years for the age group of 5-10 years. This included average life expectancy of 66.6 years for male child and 70.5 years for female child. Though there is no specific data pertaining to life expectancy in Nagpur, it is considered to be closer to the average life expectancy of Maharashtra.

‘We need to take care, or face ill-effects’
Pulmonologist Dr Ravindra Sarnaik states that PM pollution has definitely increased in the city, and lists out several reasons including construction projects, dust, road works etc. Impure fuel used by vehicles to save expenditure also results in emission of Carbon Monoxide, Carbon Dioxide. Besides, there is a trend of people smoking inside homes. people even burn garbage, which adversely affects the air quality. High-rise buildings also obstruct currents of fresh air in dense localities, he says.

Air pollution has adverse impact on health. Dr Sarnaik says, it causes irritation in airways, cough, etc. “Though the complaints are non-specific, they are increasing. Indoor and outdoor air pollution both are affecting human health, especially that of children. Heart ailments, psychological disturbances, brain strokes are increasing. Longer exposure to polluted air may lead to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. We need to take care and correct ourselves,” he adds.

Though Nagpur is lesser polluted than bigger cities like Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru etc, if care is not taken the people will have to face the adverse consequences in terms of overall productivity, health status, and also life expectancy. Rules relating to pollution control should be followed stringently. Also, people need to be made aware of care to be taken, Dr Sarnaik stresses.


‘It is a scary trend’

Ishan Choudhary, Media and Outreach Co-ordinator, EPIC India, calls it a ‘scary trend’. “Air pollution is treated as a cliche subject. It is not that simple and generic. Life expectancy is being affected,” he observes. At least now, in the form of Star Rating Programme, the people have a platform to be an equal partner in finding solution by engaging industry and regulator, he adds.

Maharashtra Government’s Star Rating Programme is the first-of-its-kind initiative in India to rate large industrial plants based on their emission levels. The rating system considers PM emission levels from industrial smoke-stacks in comparison to the typical limit of 150 mg/Nm3. Ratings are allocated from one star (the most polluting) to five stars (the least polluting). Stars are assigned to industries based on the median concentration of the latest 4 PM samples.