Is air pollution shortening lives of people in Patna?

Patna (IANS) Being one of the non-attainment cities with respect to ambient air quality under the National Clean Air Programme, Patna's deteriorating air quality has been a cause of national concern.

To highlight the serious concern about growing air pollution and its impact on human health in Patna, the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) India, in partnership with the Centre for Environment and Energy Development (CEED) shared the findings from Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) to educate stakeholders and demand urgent steps to control air pollution in the cities.

According to the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago's Air Quality Life Index, residents of Patna could live about 7.7 years longer if the World Health Organisation's (WHO) PM 2.5 guidelines are met.

Back in 1998, the gain in life expectancy by meeting the same air quality standards was four years. This, along with other insightful details, was shared at a workshop organised by CEED and EPIC India in Patna on Saturday.

Officials of CEED highlighted the fact that health must be the central point or focus for any kind of action on air pollution.

"The impact of air pollution on human health is devastating and more so the most vulnerable people are at receiving end. The Bihar government must act on an urgent basis to implement the clean air action plan in letter and spirit," an official said.

Echoing similar sentiments, Michael Greenstone, Milton Friedman Distinguished Service Professor in Economics and director of EPIC added: "Around the world today, people are breathing air that represents a serious risk to their health. But the way this risk is communicated is very often opaque and confusing, translating air pollution concentrations into colours like red, brown, orange and green.

"What those colours mean for people's well being has always been unclear. My colleagues and I developed the AQLI, where the ‘L' stands for ‘life,' to address these shortcomings. It takes particulate air pollution concentrations and converts them into perhaps the most important metric that exists - life expectancy," he said.

Sharing his insights on the impact of air pollution on human health, Dr Neeraj Agarwal, AIIMS (Patna) said: "The health impacts of breathing toxic air are increasingly showing up in our hospitals and clinics. The increased patient flow of cases of respiratory illness certainly has links to the worsening air quality in our cities.

"Earlier, we got patients who were smokers or passive smokers but nowadays we get patients who haven't smoked in their entire life and are suffering from life-threatening diseases like lung cancer," he said.

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