Photo: Tobi Gaulke/ BY-NC-ND

Air pollution cuts life by a decade, costing billions

A new study by Mikael Skou Andersen of Aarhus University in Denmark, shows that, on average, increased levels of the air pollutant PM2.5 cut victims’ life expectancy much more than previously thought. Moreover, the estimated economic cost of premature death differs wildly between the US and the EU because of the calculations used.

In the US, the cost-benefit analysis of reducing air pollution is calculated based on the number of lives saved, with each life currently estimated to be worth $7.4 million. This figure is more than three times higher than the one commonly used in Europe, where the focus is on the change in life expectancy.

According to Skou Andersen, an increase in airborne PM2.5 of 10 micrograms per cubic metre causes an average loss of life expectancy of 9–11 years – much longer than a frequently cited estimate of 1–2 years. The author hopes that this information will inform international institutions and policy makers that want to accurately account for deaths caused by air pollution due to fossil fuel consumption.

Source: ScienceDaily, 3 July 2017.

The article: “Co-benefits of climate mitigation: Counting statistical lives or life-years?” Ecological Indicators, July 2017. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2017.03.051


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