Nav: Home

30,000+ US lives could be saved by reducing air pollution levels below current standard

July 24, 2019

PITTSBURGH--Research findings from the Center for Air Quality, Climate, and Energy Solutions (CACES) at Carnegie Mellon University show significant human health benefits when air quality is better than the current national ambient air quality standard. The estimate of lives that could be saved by further reduction of air pollution levels is more than thirty thousand, which is similar to the number of deaths from car accidents each year.

CACES' results were published this week in two related studies in the journals Environmental Health Perspectives and PLOS Medicine. The studies examined U.S. mortality related to fine particulate matter pollution (PM2.5), the complex mixture of chemicals that can penetrate deeply into the lungs, contributing to respiratory and cardiovascular disease and premature death. The current U.S. standard for PM2.5 is an annual average of 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air. The new findings indicate that there are significant public health benefits to improving air quality, even in locations where PM2.5 levels are below 12 micrograms per cubic meter.

"These findings are particularly relevant at a time when the EPA is planning to change how it calculates the benefits of cleaner air by dismissing any health benefits below the current standard," said Allen Robinson, director of CACES and professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon. "These benefits are important to consider when evaluating efforts to tackle climate change, such as the Clean Power Plan."

Another key finding is the substantial health benefits that have occurred from clean-up efforts over the past two decades. For example, in parts of California and some southern states, these efforts are estimated to have increased life expectancy by 0.3 years. "Although there is more work to be done to continue to improve our air quality, it is important to celebrate the tremendous progress that has been made," added Robinson.

The two studies used very large, national sets of public data. "The fact that they are public data is very important because it means that independent research teams can replicate our results," said Robinson. "This satisfies legislators' demands for transparent science and ensures that there is admissible scientific evidence on which to base environmental regulations."

The study published in Environmental Health Perspectives used public data from 28 years of National Health Interview Surveys linked with the National Death Index to create a uniquely large, well-documented, representative cohort of 1.6 million U.S. adults. The study published in PLOS Medicine used data from the National Center for Health Statistics, examining 18.4 million cardiorespiratory deaths from 1999 to 2015. While the researchers involved in the two studies used different data sets and different methods, the outcomes of the studies are consistent.

"The ubiquitous and involuntary nature of exposures, and the broadly-observed effects across sub-populations, underscore the public-health importance of breathing clean air," said Arden Pope, professor of economics at Brigham Young University and the lead author of the Environmental Health Perspectives paper.

"In every county, some people are dying too early at current levels of air pollution, which would make further improvements a truly national priority," said Majid Ezzati, professor of global environmental health at Imperial College London and the senior author of the PLOS Medicine paper.
-end-
Additional collaborators include Cornerstone Research, Harvard University, Health Canada, the National Cancer Center (Korea), the University of Chicago, and the University of Washington. The research was supported by the Center for Air, Climate, and Energy Solutions (CACES) funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Grant Number R835873, and the Wellcome Trust.

More information:

Mortality Risk and Fine Particulate Air Pollution in a Large, Representative Cohort of U.S. Adults, Environmental Health Perspectives. https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/ehp4438

Particulate matter air pollution and national and county life expectancy loss in the USA: A spatiotemporal analysis, PLOS Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1002856

About CACES: The Center for Air, Climate, and Energy Solutions is a collaborative research center at Carnegie Mellon University created through a partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency. This multidisciplinary, multi-institutional center represents a new approach for the integrated management of air quality, climate, and energy. Its ultimate goal is to create a cleaner, healthier environment. http://www.engineering.cmu.edu/caces

About the College of Engineering: The College of Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University is a top-ranked, engineering college that is known for our intentional focus on cross-disciplinary collaboration in research. The College is well known for working on problems of both scientific and practical importance. Our acclaimed faculty have a focus on innovation management and engineering to yield transformative results that will drive the intellectual and economic vitality of our community, nation and world. The College offers graduate and undergraduate degree programs in biomedical engineering, chemical engineering, civil and environmental engineering, electrical and computer engineering, engineering and public policy, information networking, materials science and engineering and mechanical engineering. Our "maker" culture is ingrained in all that we do, leading to novel approaches and transformative results.

Carnegie Mellon University

Related Air Pollution Articles:

Aspirin may prevent air pollution harms
A new study is the first to report evidence that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin may lessen the adverse effects of air pollution exposure on lung function.
Curbing indoor air pollution in India
Clean cooking energy transitions are extremely challenging to achieve, but they offer enormous potential health, environmental, and societal benefits.
Exposure to air pollution in India is associated with more hypertension in women
The CHAI project assessed the link between fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and black carbon and blood pressure in over 5,500 people living in a peri-urban area near Hyderabad city
Study finds link between hypertension and air pollution
A new study soon to appear in the Faculty of Public Health's Journal of Public Health, published by Oxford University Press, suggests that air pollution and living in apartment buildings may be associated with an increased risk for dangerous conditions like heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
Study sheds new light on the harms of air pollution
A new University at Buffalo study based on levels before, during and after the Beijing Olympics reveals how air pollution affects the human body at the level of metabolites.
More Air Pollution News and Air Pollution Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...