MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexicans would live an average of two months longer if they breathed cleaner air, Harvard researchers conclude in a study published Monday. The study found that some 7,600 people’s lives were cut short each year by diseases related to air pollution between 2001-2005, representing about 1.6 percent of annual deaths in Mexico.
The highest proportion of those deaths — 38 percent — were in Mexico City, a mountain-ringed valley long known for its dense layer of smog.
Mexico’s average life expectancy — 72.3 years for men and 77.8 for women — would be longer by 2.4 months if urban air quality were improved, according to the study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The researchers — Gretchen Stevens, Rodrigo Dias and Majid Ezzati of the Harvard Initiative for Global Health — used death records and air quality monitoring data to estimate the number of people who died from lung cancer, cardiopulmonary diseases, respiratory infections and other illnesses as a result of breathing heavily polluted air. Then they estimated what Mexico’s average life expectancy rate would be if those people had not died early.
The researchers also studied the effect on mortality rates from the use of solid fuels, like coal and wood burning, and from unsafe water sanitation in Mexican homes.