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Bad air quality tied to cutting global life expectancy

Posted at 11:47 AM, Dec 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-16 17:19:58-05

TUCSON, Ariz. — TUCSON, Ariz. - The air we breathe could be cutting our life expectancy, according to a new report created by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC).

That report is the new Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) which says our air is the single greatest threat to human health. The AQLI says fossil fuel-driven air pollution cuts our average life expectancy by 1.8 years.

And air quality experts in Arizona are keeping a close eye on Nogales. Dr. Matthew Pace, with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, attributes some of Nogales' bad air quality to its location.

"We see a lot of air quality issues this time of year in Nogales. Lately, they've been sitting in the moderate air quality. And then more than likely, as we head into the holiday season, we are going to probably see some exceedances down there, especially on New Years Eve, New Years Day, just like we saw last year when they moved into the 'Very Unhealthy' category," said Pace.

Those who live close to the U.S./Mexico border may use more wood for fires, therefore, the city's PM 2.5 levels are much higher than they are in Tucson.

"One of the things we look at, especially during the holiday time is PM 2.5. Particulate matter that is 2.5 microns or smaller," said Pace.

To put that into perspective, 2.5 microns is 20-30 times smaller than a human hair. This is usually in the form of smoke, which is why, when inhaled, it can go deep into our lungs and possibly do damage. Pace says the holidays is when he sees a boost in PM 2.5, because people burn more wood during the winter months.

"People want to get into the Christmas spirit, they may be doing it for warmth. And then you also have the weather aspect. During the overnight hours it gets really cool right near the surface, and it creates an inversion," said Pace.

This inversion is cold air being trapped by warm air in the atmosphere. All of the pollution gets trapped in that layer, so it builds up overtime, which makes the air quality worse.

You can find the full report from EPIC, here. In addition, below are links to ADEQ's air quality forecasts.

ADEQ Forecasting page [].

ADEQ forecasts for certain nonattainment areas in the state [].

ADEQ hourly air quality forecasts []