Continuously breathing in wildfire smoke can wipe up to two years off of your lifespan, a study suggests.

The annual Air Quality Life Index (AQLI), published by the University of Chicago, found that the average person would add to their lifespan if they lived in a place that abided by World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines regarding air pollution. 

They found that in 2021, 20 of the 30 most polluted U.S. counties were in California, potentially because of the smoke emitted by frequent wildfires in the state.It continued that 96% of the United States  does not meet the WHO's air quality criteria of 5 micrograms of pollutants. 

In Plumas, the most polluted area in California in the northern region of the state, the AQLI projected that people would live 2.1 years longer if the county followed the WHO's pollution instructions. 

Illinois and Indiana closely follow California as the most polluted states in the country.  

Air pollution can cause significant damage to the lungs and organs in the body. Research has linked particles in the air to respiratory infections, lung cancer, issues such as asthma and COPD and even heart cancer, among others.

Nationwide, the report said that air pollution exposure has decreased by 64.9% since 1970, before the Clean Air Act passed. 

The Environmental Protection Agency suggested reducing the national standard from 12 to 9-10 micrograms per cubic meter, which the AQLI believes would add 3.2 million life years if the higher demand limit was granted.

The report found that most of the air pollution that affects life expectancy comes from Asia and Africa, which are responsible for 92% of the world's life expectancy loss.However, those regions where pollution is just as significant of a threat as HIV/AIDS and malaria do not have the appropriate infrastructure to improve clean air quality. 

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