Around the world today, people are breathing air that poses a serious risk to their health. But the way this risk is communicated is often opaque and confusing, translating air pollution concentrations into colors, like red, brown, orange, and green. What those colors mean for people’s wellbeing has been unclear.

The Air Quality Life Index, or AQLI, is an award-winning, first-of-its-kind initiative that develops frontier research on pollution’s impact on life expectancy and communicates that research to policymakers, media and citizens around the world. Developed by EPIC, the AQLI is based on cutting-edge research by EPIC’s director Michael Greenstone that quantifies the causal relationship between human exposure to air pollution and reduced life expectancy. Combining this analysis with highly localized pollution measurements yields unprecedented insight into the true cost of air pollution in communities around the world. Through a virtual platform, users anywhere on Earth can zoom into their community and understand the effect of the air they breathe on their life expectancy. Equipped with this data, policymakers and members of the public can determine the benefits of policies to reduce pollution and take informed action.

“While people can stop smoking and take steps to protect themselves from diseases, there is little they can individually do to protect themselves from the air they breathe. The AQLI tells citizens and policymakers how particulate pollution is affecting them and their communities and reveals the benefits of policies to reduce particulate pollution.”

– Michael Greenstone, Milton Friedman Distinguished Service Professor in Economics; Director, EPIC

The AQLI’s virtual platform is fully available in English, Hindi, and Mandarin Chinese. Its data has been used to produce detailed pollution analysis for countries around the world in local languages, including Urdu, Indonesian, Thai and more. These findings have been used to brief senior government leaders in some of the most polluted countries, and have received coverage from more than 300 media outlets, reaching more than 1.1 billion people globally in both top-tier and local outlets across print, digital, television, and radio platforms. Since its launch in 2018, the AQLI has featured prominently in air pollution discussions around the world, has played a role in clean air policy developments in multiple countries, and international organizations such as the United Nations Environment Programme, World Health Organization, World Bank, World Economic Forum and Clean Air fund have used AQLI findings to amplify their own calls for cleaner air.

The AQLI has been supported by environmentalists Greta Thunberg, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Pakistan’s former Minister for Climate/Environment Sherry Rehman, and used  by human rights committees in India and Human Rights Watch in Pakistan to justify action. The AQLI has helped drive the development of a clean air bill in India, and has been used to justify policy changes by Members of Parliament in the United Kingdom, India, and Pakistan. It has also been used as evidence in a landmark Indonesian court ruling that found the Jakarta government needed to do more to protect its people.

The Index has been recognized as a ‘World Changing Idea’ by Fast Company magazine and as the “gold standard on air quality research” in The New York Times.

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