Pollution Can Shave Two Years off Life, Study Shows

Air quality around the world has worsened and become a global environmental and health dilemma. No matter where you are, you’re always surrounded by dirty air; you’re always exposed to toxic air. Breathing in toxic air shouldn’t be a regular thing, though, as it can shorten a person’s life expectancy by over two years. 

According to a study published in June this year, the impact that air pollution has on humans is like the effects of cigarette smoking but more dangerous than terrorism or HIV and AIDS. 

EPIC, the University of Chicago’s Energy Policy Institute, revealed that over 97% of the world’s population resides in neighbourhoods with air pollution levels that exceed safe limits. They collected this information from their Air Quality Life Index or AQLI using satellite data that measured PM2.5 levels. 

PM2.5 are tiny particulate matter that floats around in the air and can get into and damage the lungs.

Air pollution used to be a neglected issue, but that story has changed since incidents such as the Dieselgate emissions scandal in 2015 and the death of nine-year-old Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah in 2013.

EPIC’s AQLI Director Christa Hasenkopf believes that now is the right time to prioritise projects intended to reduce air pollution. Governments should treat the issue urgently. 

The study also focuses on South Asia and its residents, who are exposed to smog, which shortens their life expectancy by five years. Air pollution in India makes up at least 44% of the global increase in dirty air since 2013. 

China’s War on Pollution initiative has helped reduce toxic air and bring down PM2.5 levels by approximately 40%. However, air pollution levels are still more than the WHO (World Health Organization) standards, so average life expectancy has not yet improved.

The study based its calculations on an earlier one that showed how continuous exposure to 10µg/m3 more of PM2.5 can lower life expectancy by at least one year. 

A pollution data survey that came out earlier this year showed that in 2021, no country met the WHO’s mandated 5-microgram-per-cubic-meter limit. If anything, this is proof of how much toxic air the world needs to eliminate. 

The Dieselgate scandal and Ella’s death

In September 2015, the Volkswagen Group received a Notice of Violation from authorities in the US indicating that defeat devices were discovered inside VW and Audi diesel vehicles sold to American consumers. The defeat devices are programmed to detect when a vehicle is being evaluated and, once this occurs, automatically suppress the vehicle’s emission levels. This makes the vehicle appear fuel-efficient and safe for the environment, fooling authorities.

However, when the vehicle is driven in regular road conditions, it once again releases massive amounts of nitrogen oxide or NOx. So, in reality, the vehicle is a heavy pollutant. If the charges are true, Volkswagen deceived their customers by mis-selling vehicles equipped with illegal defeat devices.

NOx emissions are responsible for the death of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah. She was constantly exposed to toxic air in the area where she and her mother lived – one of the most highly polluted neighbourhoods in London. She was in and out of the hospital for various respiratory problems until she died after a bout of asthma. Her death caught the attention of environmental campaigners and authorities and leaders called for an inquest.

In December 2020, the coroner officially confirmed that Ella died because of air pollution.

Aside from Volkswagen, other carmakers have also been implicated in the diesel emissions scandal. 

Nitrogen oxide emissions are highly reactive gases that contain nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and nitric oxide (NO). They cause various health and environmental impacts. 

Crops and plants weaken when they are exposed to nitrogen oxide emissions. Vegetation, in general, can get damaged.

People exposed to NOx emissions and prone to episodes of anxiety and depression will have to bear with more frequent “attacks”. Cognitive health can also weaken, which can make a person vulnerable to dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Exposure to nitrogen oxide emissions causes several health impacts:

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Fluid can develop in the lungs
  • Asthma
  • Emphysema, bronchitis, and other respiratory issues
  • Asphyxiation
  • Vocal cords spasm
  • Lung function reduction (chronic)
  • Certain cancers
  • Cardiovascular disease

NOx emissions are also responsible for millions of deaths across the world every year.

Significantly reducing NOx emissions is the best thing to do to improve life expectancy and protect the environment and human health. Thus, carmakers that used defeat devices should be held responsible for their illegal actions. This is why car owners are encouraged to bring forward a diesel claim against their manufacturer.

But, how do I start my diesel claim?

Making a claim in court can be time-consuming but if you know how the process works, things can be easier. There are emissions experts who can help you out with this. However, as there are certain requirements to adhere to, your first step should be to verify your eligibility to bring forward a diesel claim.

The ClaimExperts.co.uk website has all the information you need. Visit them now so you can start your claims process right away.

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