Measured in terms of life expectancy, the AQLI reveals that ambient particulate pollution (PM2.5) is consistently the world’s greatest external risk to human health. While particulate pollution is set to reduce global average life expectancy by 2.3 years, tobacco use, for instance, reduces global life expectancy by 2.2 years. Child and maternal malnutrition reduces life expectancy by 1.6 years; alcohol use by 7.2 months; unsafe water, sanitation and handwashing, 7.2 months; HIV/AIDS, 3.6 months; and nutritional deficiencies, just 1.2 months. Thus, the impact of particulate pollution on life expectancy is comparable to that of tobacco use, 3.8 times that of alcohol use and unsafe water sanitation and handwashing, 5.8 times that of transport injuries, 7.6 times that of HIV/AIDS, and 23 times that of nutritional deficiencies.
Meanwhile, the philanthropic pie for air pollution is unbalanced compared to the size of its burden in many parts of the world. While important issues like HIV/AIDS receive 654 million USD annually from philanthropic foundations worldwide, outdoor air pollution receives less than a tenth of that amount (63.8 million USD) despite its larger global health burden. In fact, the entire continent of Africa receives under 300,000 USD in philanthropic funds toward air pollution (i.e. the current average price of a single-family home in the United States). Just 1.4 million USD goes to Asia, outside of China and India. Europe, the United States, and Canada, meanwhile, receive 34 million USD, according to the Clean Air Fund. There is an outsized opportunity to reverse this inequality.