Air Pollution reduces global life expectancy by two years

What is air pollution?

Air pollution is described as a change in air quality that may be measured by chemical, biological, or physical contaminants in the atmosphere. As a result, air pollution refers to the undesired presence of contaminants or an abnormal increase in the quantity of certain atmospheric elements. It is divided into two categories: visible and invisible air pollution.

According to studies, microscopic air pollution generated mostly by the combustion of fossil fuels reduces life expectancy by more than two years worldwide.

According to a research by the University of Chicago’s Energy Policy Institute, if fine particulate matter levels across South Asia reached World Health Organization criteria, the typical individual would live five years longer.

The severe lung and heart illness caused by so-called PM2.5 pollution decreases life expectancy by eight years in the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, home to 300 million people, and by a decade in the capital city of New Delhi.

PM2.5 pollution, which has a diameter of 2.5 microns or less, or about the same as a human hair, penetrates the lungs and reaches the bloodstream.

It was listed as a cancer-causing substance by the United Nations in 2013.

According to the WHO, PM2.5 levels in the air should not exceed 15 micrograms per cubic meter in any 24-hour period, or 5 mcg/m3 on an annual basis.

The WHO strengthened these guidelines last year, the first time since adopting air quality advice in 2005, in response to accumulating evidence of negative health effects.

In the Air Quality Life Index study, lead researcher Crista Hasenkopf and colleagues stated, “Clean air pays back in additional years of life for individuals all over the world.”

“Reducing global air pollution to WHO recommendations permanently would add 2.2 years to average life expectancy.”

Major gains in China

Almost all inhabited regions in the globe surpass WHO limits, but none more so than Asia: Bangladesh exceeds them by 15-fold, India by 10-fold, and Nepal and Pakistan by nine-fold.

Pollution levels in Central and West Africa, as well as much of Southeast Asia and portions of Central America, are far higher than the world average, resulting in shorter lives.

Despite a dramatic slowdown in the world economy and a commensurate decline in CO2 emissions owing to COVID lockdowns, PM2.5 pollution in 2020, the most latest data available, remained practically constant from the year before.

“During the first year of the epidemic, pollution in South Asia actually increased,” the investigators reported.

China is one country that has made significant progress.

Between 2013 and 2020, PM2.5 pollution in the 1.4 billion-strong country reduced by about 40%, extending life expectancy by two years.

Despite this achievement, Chinese people’s lives are now cut short by 2.6 years on average.

Henan and Hebei in north-central China, as well as Shandong on the coast, are among the worst-affected provinces.

According to the paper, the impact of PM2.5 pollution is similar to smoking cigarettes, more than three times that of alcohol usage, and six times that of HIV/AIDS when compared to other causes of early mortality.

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Microplastics were identified for the first time in Antarctic Snow

Researchers from the University of Canterbury have released the world’s first study confirming the finding of microplastics in new Antarctic snow.

Most people think of Antarctica as a pure, unspoiled environment, but new research released today (8 June) found microplastics—plastic particles smaller than a grain of rice—for the first time in freshly fallen Antarctic snow.

These discoveries, published in the scientific journal The Cryosphere as “First evidence of microplastics in Antarctic snow,” shed light on a severe hazard to the Antarctic. Microplastics have been discovered to have harmful effects on the ecosystem, according to research (limiting growth, reproduction, and general biological functions in organisms, as well as negative implications for humans). Microplastic particles in the air have the ability to impact the climate by speeding up the melting of snow and ice on a larger scale.

As part of Gateway Antarctica’s Postgraduate Certificate in Antarctic Studies, University of Canterbury Ph.D. student Alex Aves collected snow samples from the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica in late 2019. (Gateway Antarctica is the University of Canterbury’s Centre for Antarctic Studies and Research.) There had been few investigations into the prevalence of microplastics in the air at the time, and it was unclear how prevalent the issue was.

“We were hopeful that Alex wouldn’t uncover any microplastics in such a clean and isolated place when she came to Antarctica in 2019,” says Associate Professor in Environmental Physics Dr. Laura Revell. “We requested her to gather snow from the Scott Base and McMurdo Station highways, so she’d have at least some microplastics to investigate,” says the researcher.

Once returning to the lab, it was clear that plastic particles were present in every sample taken from the Ross Ice Shelf’s distant locations, and that the discoveries would have worldwide implications.

Aves, who just received a Master in Antarctic Studies with Distinction, says her discoveries astounded her.

“It’s heartbreaking, but discovering microplastics in new Antarctic snow demonstrates the breadth of plastic contamination into even the most distant corners of the earth,” she adds. “We collected snow samples from 19 locations around Antarctica’s Ross Island region and detected microplastics in all of them.”

“In retrospect, I’m not shocked,” Associate Professor Revell explains. “We’ve learned from research published in recent years that we detect airborne microplastics everywhere we look.”

Aves used a chemical analysis approach to detect the type of plastic particles found in snow samples. The plastic particles were also examined under a microscope to determine their color, size, and shape—all of which are crucial observations for future studies.

The authors discovered an average of 29 microplastic particles per liter of melting snow, which is greater than previously recorded marine concentrations from the adjacent Ross Sea and Antarctic sea ice.

The density of microplastics was roughly three times greater around the scientific stations on Ross Island, Scott Base, and McMurdo Station, Antarctica’s biggest station, with amounts comparable to those observed in Italian glacier debris. There were 13 distinct forms of plastic discovered, with PET being the most prevalent, often used to produce soft drink bottles and garments.

The potential sources of microplastics were investigated. “Atmospheric models revealed microplastics may have moved thousands of kilometers through the air, but it is as probable that humanity’s presence in Antarctica has produced a microplastic’footprint,” the researchers write.

Natasha Gardiner, Antarctica New Zealand’s environmental advisor, called the UC research “hugely valuable.”

“The study of Alex and her colleagues allows Antarctic Treaty Parties to make evidence-based judgments on the urgent need to decrease plastic pollution in the future. It helps us better assess the degree of plastic contamination near Scott Base and where it is coming from. This knowledge may be used to prevent plastic pollution at its source and to guide our larger environmental management methods “she claims”Importantly, this research project also informs policy at the international level, and we have submitted a paper on the findings to the forthcoming Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting.”

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