US Air Pollution Also a Major Problem

In the previous article, we wrote about how health concerns about air pollution could be game-changing for climate change, pointing to new laws in China and policies by The World Bank.

Air pollution is also quite serious in the US, where it is responsible for some 200,000 premature deaths each year, according researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment. That puts it among the leading causes of death in the US.

Transportation emissions are the single largest cause, causing 53,000 premature deaths, and electrical power generation comes in second, causing 52,000 early deaths.

"In the past 5-10 years, the evidence linking air pollution exposure to risk of early death has really solidified and gained scientific and political traction," Steven Barrett, assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics, told Voice of America News. "There’s a realization that air pollution is a major problem in any city, and there’s a desire to do something about it." 

Baltimore, Maryland has the notable distinction of the highest emissions-related death rate, according to MIT’s study. 130 of every 100,000 deaths are likely caused by exposure to air pollution. 

"A person who dies from air pollution causes typically dies about a decade earlier than he or she might have otherwise," says Barrett.

The study analyzed data from EPA’s National Emissions Inventory and examined emissions from electric power generation; industry; commercial and residential sources; road, marine and rail transportation. 

There are variations across the country, of course, Industrial pollution is the biggest cause of premature death where heavy, polluting industries are concentrated, such as the Midwest and around Philadelphia, Atlanta, Los Angeles and the Gulf coast. 

Eastern power plants tend to use coal with higher sulfur content than in the west, and southern California has the biggest impact from marine pollution – it’s now making great gains on addressing that. 

In the Rocky Mountain states, the Bureau of Land Management has been permitting oil and gas leases without considering the air pollution those projects cause.

Rail is the least problematic of transportation options.

"It’s surprising to me just how significant road transportation is, Barrett told Voice of America News, "especially when you imagine [that] coal-fired power stations are burning relatively dirty fuel."
Since vehicles tend to be concentrated in populated areas, they could be compounding pollution exposure. Power plants, on the other hand, tend to be located away from densely populated areas and send their emissions to higher altitudes, he posits.

"A public-health burden of this magnitude clearly requires significant policy attention, especially since technologies are readily available to address a significant fraction of these emissions," Jonathan Levy, an environmental health professor at Boston University, told Voice of America News. "We have certainly invested significant societal resources to address far smaller impacts on public health."

Read our article, Who Are the Top Polluters of Air, Water & Climate in the US?

(Visited 9,995 times, 4 visits today)

Post Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *