Air pollution is shortening the average life expectancy in Nigeria by 1.8 years, relative to what it would be if the World Health Organization (WHO) guideline of 5 µg/m3 was met, a new report has said.
According to Air Quality Life Index (AQLI), air pollution is doing more harm than HIV/AIDS and is almost on par with malaria and unsafe water and sanitation.
It says particulate air pollution takes 2.2 years off global average life expectancy, or a combined 17 billion life years, relative to the world that met the WHO guideline 5 micrograms per cubic meter of air (µg/m3).
The report showed that in Akwa Ibom, Taraba, Cross River, and Delta states, residents are losing 2.6 to 3 years of life expectancy on average, relative to the scenario in which the WHO guideline is met.
Some areas of Nigeria face much worse than average, with air pollution shortening lives by almost four years on average in parts of Taraba State, according to the report.
It said the highest pollution levels in Nigeria were observed in the Niger Delta, where oil refineries — many illegal — are linked to the grim daily reality of air pollution.
AQLI showed that this impact on life expectancy is comparable to that of smoking, more than three times that of alcohol use and unsafe water, six times that of HIV/AIDS, and 89 times that of conflict and terrorism.
The report said: “All of Nigeria’s 208.3 million people live in areas where the annual average particulate pollution level exceeds the WHO guideline. However, measured in terms of life expectancy, particulate pollution ranks among the top threats to human health in Nigeria, reducing life expectancy by 1.8 years on average.
“Malaria, in comparison, reduces average life expectancy by about 2.2 years, while HIV/ AIDS and unsafe water and sanitation reduces average life expectancy by 1.1 and 2.2 years respectively.”
AQLI said particulate pollution has increased over time, adding that the average annual PM2.5 concentration had increased by almost 15 percent since 2000, cutting average life expectancies short by roughly 4 months.
According to report, during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world’s economy slowed, yet the global annual average particulate pollution (PM2.5) was largely unchanged from 2019 levels.
“In addition, at the same time, growing evidence shows air pollution — even when experienced at very low levels — hurts human health,” it said.
The report said this recently led the WHO to revise its guideline (from 10 µg/m³ to 5 µg/m³) for what it considered a safe level of exposure to particulate pollution, bringing most of the world— 97.3 percent of the global population — into the unsafe zone.
In addition, in Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous city, home to 20 million people, an average resident stands to gain 1.5 years of life expectancy on average from clean air.