A new study has concluded that tens of thousands of premature deaths in the United States could be prevented if air pollution was reduced or completely eliminated.
The study, published by researchers at the University of Wisconsin (UW) in the journal GeoHealth on Monday, notes that by eliminating air pollution resulting from energy-related activities in the United States, more than 53,000 premature deaths could be avoided on an annual basis. Preventing these deaths would also save $608 million in benefits related to illnesses and deaths caused by air pollution.
The UW researchers reached this conclusion by analyzing data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and using health models to assess the benefits of removing particulate pollutants from the air, including the sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.
“These [particles] penetrate deep into the lungs and cause respiratory and heart ailments,” says Jonathan Patz, a UW professor and one of the study’s authors. “They’re pretty much the worst polluters in terms of mortality and hospitalization.”
While states could still potentially save lives if they acted alone, there would be greater benefits with higher levels of cooperation, due to the way these types of particles transport across world borders. state, noted the study’s lead author, graduate student Nicholas Mailloux.
“If Wisconsin acted alone, they would get some advantage,” Mailloux said. “But if they act in concert with partners in the region or as part of a national effort, you will get more benefit.”
Researchers found that reducing the amount of air pollutants would have a profound impact on public health in the immediate term – and also have long-term positive effects when it comes to moving away from sources unsustainable energy sources and to tackle the climate crisis as a whole.
Many other research studies have come to similar conclusions. A study last year, for example, found that 74 million lives could be saved by the end of this century if energy-based air pollution were eliminated by 2050.
A reduction in pollutants would also likely benefit groups of people who are more sensitive than others to these types of pollutants, an EPA report said.
“These groups include children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with pre-existing heart and lung conditions,” the EPA said, as well as people “in lower socioeconomic neighborhoods and communities.” [that] may be more vulnerable to air pollution.