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 (AQLI) is a pollution index that translates particulate air pollution into perhaps the most important metric that exists: its impact on life expectancy. Developed by EPIC Director Michael Greenstone and the team at EPIC, the AQLI is rooted in recent research that quantifies the causal relationship between long-term human exposure to air pollution and reduced life expectancy. The Index then combines this research with hyper-localized, global particulate measurements.

“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 allows users to zoom in on any district in the world and understand the effects of that district’s local air pollution on life expectancy. The Index also illustrates how air pollution policies can increase life expectancy when they meet the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guideline for what is considered a safe level of exposure, existing national air quality standards, or user-defined air quality levels. This information can help to inform local communities and policymakers about the importance of air pollution policies in very concrete terms.

Since launching in November 2018, the Index has been recognized as a ‘World Changing Idea’ by Fast Company magazine.

AQLI by the Numbers

  • The AQLI has been covered by close to 300 media outlets, reaching more than 1 billion people worldwide.
  • AQLI has had users in 161 countries;
  • The site is fully accessible in 2 languages: English and Mandarin; and
  • Individual analyses of top polluters are available in 5 languages.

Visit AQLI