By Bonnie Berkowitz, John Muyskens, Manas Sharma and Monica Ulmanu

The average person would live 2.6 years longer if the air contained none of the deadliest type of pollution, according to researchers at the University of Chicago’s Energy Policy Institute. Your numbers depend on where you live.

Here is China, with its population grouped by years of life lost to fine-particle pollution in 2016. We sized countries by population and sorted them by their average pollution in 2016. China made major reforms, such as banning some new coal-fired plants, closing mines and limiting cars, but the average person loses 3.9 years of life expectancy, and people in the most polluted areas lose nearly eight years.

While India’s average is 5.3 years, people in two districts east of Delhi — Hapur and Bulandshahr — lose more than 12 years, the most of any place on the planet.

Nepal has the highest average particle concentration of any country, and it cuts 5.4 years off the average lifespan. Most of the worst places are along its border with India.

The average U.S. resident loses less than a year to tiny-particle pollution, thanks to policies that date to the 1970s. People in Fresno County, Calif., can expect to lose two years of life, the highest number in the country.

In Europe, air pollution is part of an ongoing battle, although it has generally improved since 1998. The most polluted European country is Poland, where people lose an average of two years.

Those numbers are startling, and that’s the point. University of Chicago researchers wanted to make air quality measurements less abstract and more relatable — and what is more relatable than years of life?

The pollution most responsible for shortening lives consists of the tiniest airborne particles, called PM2.5. They are small enough to penetrate deep into the lungs and bloodstream, causing breathing and cardiovascular problems, cancer and possibly even dementia. They’re bad for healthy people and terrible for young children, the elderly and anyone who already has heart or respiratory problems.

The particles are light enough to hang in the air for a long time and travel with the wind, which is why wildfires in California triggered air quality alerts and forced school closings many miles away.

The Chicago team started with satellite data that mapped the annual PM2.5 concentration in air all over the world, from 1998 to 2016.

Continue reading at The Washington Post…

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Areas of Focus: Environment
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Air Pollution
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