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Pure air increases life expectancy in U.S. cities

Boston, January 22: A latest study indicates that limiting air pollution in various cities of the United States has helped in increasing the life expectancy of their natives by an average of 5 months.

Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the study took into account the air pollution and life expectancy figures over a period of 20 years, from 1980 to 2000, across 51 U.S. cities.

Researchers concluded that people had started living 2.72 years longer by 2000, 15 percent of which they credit to the cuts in pollution.

Previous studies have already established that polluted air can aggravate lung and heart ailments.

The research, conducted by Brigham Young University and Harvard School of Public Health, employed cutting edge numerical models. These were used to single out other factors like smoking and wealth that contribute to variations in life expectancy.

The study mainly stressed on “PM 2.5” pollution - which gauged levels of minute particles, one-twentieth the width of a human hair in diameter. These delicate elements are capable of going into the lungs and hence aggravate asthma and heart problems.

The study researchers also discovered that the cities that showed the maximum swing from polluted to clean air were the ones where the lifespan of their inhabitants increased by an average of 10 more months.

For each 10 micrograms per cubic metre fall in particulate pollution, the life expectancy went up by more than 7 months.

Dr. C. Arden Pope, a researcher, described the increase in life expectancy as “remarkable”. He said, “We find that we’re getting a substantial return on our investments in improving our air quality.

“Not only are we getting cleaner air that improves our environment, but it is improving our public health.”

Professor Jonathan Ayres of University of Birmingham, an expert in the medical effects of air pollution, attributed the lack of similar studies in the UK to the fact that the requisite data had been put together only in recent years.

But he added that efforts to enhance the quality of air in the UK were going in the right direction.