MAPPED: How much longer would you live if SA reduced air pollution

2017-10-02 13:56 - Kavitha Pillay
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Air pollution. (Photo: iStock)

Cape Town - The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) is gearing up for air quality management towards 2020 and beyond, with the 12th Annual Air Quality Governance Lekgotla currently taking place in Gauteng from 02 October to 04 October.

The conference will allow government air quality managers and officers "to build, strengthen and/ or fine-tune their air quality management interventions towards the implementation of the Air Quality Act (AQA) to contribute to a better life for all", says the DEA.

The 2017 Lekgotla will focus on air quality monitoring initiatives, the review of the National Framework for air quality management and atmospheric emission management. An upgraded South African Air Quality Information System (SAAQIS) will also be launched at the conference.

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Air Quality Officers at the annual conference will be able to discuss and debate ways of addressing the various governance challenges and plans for the year ahead, with the aim to provide guidance to authorities towards the effective implementation of the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act.

"Government has been implementing programmes and tools as per the 2012 National Framework to achieve the quality of air that is not harmful to the health and wellbeing of the people," says DEA.

SA's air quality

According to the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, "airborne particulate matter pollution" is one of the greatest environmental risks to health, leading to respiratory and heart disease, strokes and lung cancer.

"Currently, an estimated 4.5 billion people around the world are exposed to levels of particulate pollution that are at least twice what the World Health Organisation (WHO) considers safe," says the Institute.

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To measure particulate pollution concentrations and its impact on lifespans in various countries, the Institute put together an Air Quality-Life Index (AQLI).

"The AQLI provides a reliable measure of the potential gain in life expectancy communities could see if their pollution concentrations are brought into compliance with global or national standards. The AQLI can serve as an important complement to the frequently used Air Quality Index(AQI) that is a complicated function of air pollution concentrations and does not map directly to health," says the Institute.

According to the research, South Africans will live up to 1.4 years longer if SA reduced air pollution to comply with the national standard or WHO's standard.

People in India and China could live up to 4.01 and 3.5 years longer respectively, if pollution was reduced, while Australia and Greenland are among the countries that are least polluted and comply with their respective national and WHO's standards for air pollution.

Click on the map below to see the number of years that could be saved in other countries:

To find out how the study was conducted and see results in more countries, click here.

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