Public health

Air pollution reduces average life expectancy by 2 years

Globally, air pollution reduces average life expectancy by 1.8 years, according to a new index developed by the University of Chicago. The metric, known as the Air Quality Life Index, or AQLI, attempts to clearly indicate how emissions of tiny particles, called particulates, are having an affect on people's health worldwide.

Why it matters: The report comes at a time when millions in California are being forced to wear protective masks to shield themselves from particulate pollution originating from the state's deadly wildfires. It also comes at the height of smog season in India, a country that ranks high on the list of most-affected nations, according to the new index.

Expert Voices

In potential boon to urban poor, Gates Foundation recommits to toilet tech

Microsoft founder Bill Gates (R) talks next to a container (L) with human feces during the 'reinvented toilet expo' in Beijing on November 6, 2018.
Bill Gates talks next to a container of human feces during the Reinvented Toilet Expo in Beijing on Nov. 6. Photo: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images

At the Reinvented Toilet Expo in Beijing on Nov. 6, Bill Gates committed the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to scaling up its investments in new toilet technologies. Eight companies based in India, China, the U.S. and Thailand, which had previously received grants from the foundation, displayed their pathogen-killing toilets and small-scale waste treatment plants that can disinfect fecal sludge.

Why it matters: 4.5 billion people don’t have access to safely managed toilets or still defecate in the open. Lack of safe sanitation leads to diarrhea (a leading cause of death among children under 5), infections such as schistosomiasis and trachoma, and vector-borne diseases such as West Nile virus. There's widespread consensus that greater support from donors such as the foundation and international banks is critical to extending basic sanitation services, especially to the world’s poorest.

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