Cleaner air may be adding months to our lives, according to a new study.
To see how air pollution affects lifespan, NIH-funded scientists looked at fine-particle pollution in 51 U.S. cities. These particles are only about 1/30th the width of a human hair. Fine-particle air pollution usually comes from power plants, industry and car exhaust.
The researchers analyzed pollution levels from around the early 1980s and again from around the early 2000s. They then calculated the lifespans of the cities’ residents during those years.
The researchers found that air pollution levels dropped in all 51 cities during the 20-year study period, and life expectancy rose on average by nearly 3 years. After the scientists adjusted for income, smoking and other factors that affect lifespan, they found that improved air quality accounted for up to 15% of the overall increase in longevity. That’s an average gain of nearly 5 months of life.
“We’re getting a substantial return on our investments in improving our air quality,” said lead researcher Dr. C. Arden Pope III of Brigham Young University.