Haze in India
Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan are some of the most polluted countries in the world. NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images

A new study has made some frightening revelations about the harmful impact of air pollution on people living in South Asian countries.

The study conducted by the University of Chicago's Energy Policy Institute (EPIC) was published on Tuesday. It said that increasing air pollution can cut life expectancy by more than five years per person in the region.

The countries at risk are also some of the most polluted countries in the world, such as Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan.

The study states that people in Bangladesh can lose 6.8 years of life on average per person due to air pollution, as opposed to people in countries like the United States, who stand to lose 3.6 months of their lives.

The situation is no better in India, which is responsible for about 59% of the world's increase in pollution since 2013, added the report. The average life span of people residing in India's capital, New Delhi, may be reduced by around 11.9 years.

"Reducing global levels of lung-damaging airborne particles, known as PM 2.5, to levels recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) could raise average life expectancy by 2.3 years, or a combined 17.8 billion life years," read an excerpt from the report.

PM 2.5 are tiny particles in the air that can enter the lungs and bloodstream. The PM 2.5 limit set by the World Health Organization is 5 μg/m3. However, most countries have failed to meet the WHO-prescribed limits.

"An average resident of Pakistan would gain 3.9 years from meeting the WHO guidelines of limiting average annual PM 2.5 concentration to 5 micrograms per cubic metre, while someone in Nepal would live 4.6 years longer if the guideline was met," it added.

According to the WHO, air pollution is responsible for about 7 million premature deaths per year. It adds that the disease burden due to air pollution is now estimated to be on par with other major global health risks.

In some cases, extremely tiny air pollution particles can even cross the blood-brain barrier and damage the neurons directly. However, PM 2.5 has especially become a major cause of concern for authorities across the globe since it is so small that it can penetrate deep into the lungs.

Similarly, another study published in The Lancet revealed that pollution caused approximately 9 million premature deaths worldwide in 2019. It included countries like China, the US, and many African and European countries.

More than 90 per cent of pollution-related deaths happened in low- and middle-income countries, with India coming in at the top of the list, followed by China with 2.1 million deaths.

The latest analysis of data obtained from more than 100 countries has revealed that air pollution is causing a rise in antibiotic resistance (AMR), posing a threat to human health. The researchers from the UK and China analysed data that was collected over the last 20 years and found that air pollution is affecting every country.