While we all know that air pollution is bad for health a new research tells just how deadly it can really be. The results presented by the study shows that more than 9,300 people in U.S cities are killed every year due to air pollution.
The study was published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society. According to the results air pollution also causes 29,768 illnesses per year in the observed areas.
The lead author of the study, Kevin Cromar, a professor at NYU’s Marron Institute of Urban Management, said that during the statistical analysis the report observed the particulate matter as well as the ozone in the cities from the years 2011-2013, along with the epidemiological data. The results gave rise to the conclusion that the areas which have the most health impacts have high concentrations of at least one of the pollutants along with being heavily populated. Cromar went on to say that in areas which have a growing population, such as the Greenville County, even if the level of current pollution doesn’t change, the health impacts will still increase. “And often we see the highest health burden in low-income populations and minority populations, or susceptible populations, such as older adults, children with asthma, and infants.”
He went on to say that all of the negative health effects can be prevented in cities if they adopt the American Thoracic Society’s air quality standards.
According to the study while the Greenville metro area did meet the standards with regards to particulate matter it didn’t meet the standards set for the ozone, which is formed when sunlight and heat reacts with the chemicals produced by vehicle exhaust, commercial and industry processes.
Research shows that air pollution, along with giving rise to asthma and other lung illnesses, is also linked to high blood pressure, low birth weight in babies, damage to the nervous system, and heart disease. Air pollution was declared a carcinogen by WHO (World Health Organization) back in 2013.
The CEO of the American Lung Association, Harold P. Wimmer, says that the current research supports the need for stronger standards against air pollution to ensure human health. “To protect Americans’ health, the Lung Association calls for full implementation and enforcement of the updated ozone standard that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized last year. While less protective than the level recommended by the Lung Association and the (American Thoracic Society), this standard is a critical step toward cleaning up ozone pollution. In addition, the Lung Association supports strengthening the particle pollution standard, which is currently under initial review by EPA.”
Though air pollution is present in the Greenville County, the area has been making progress in order to rectify it. The county received a B in the 2016 State of the Air report by the American Lung Association. It got a C back in 2014. The county officials have been trying to improve the quality of the air for years through efforts that uses alternative fuel vehicles and buses, anti-idling programs, transportation projects, and more.
The assistant to the county administrator and the leader of the county’s “Spare the Air” efforts, Sandra Yudice, said that the area follows the recommendations made by the EPA to control the quality of the air. The ozone levels saw a decrease of 29% from 1990-2015. “Since the early 2000s, Greenville County has led efforts to improve air quality in Upstate South Carolina. Can we continue improving air quality? Sure we can as we all become acutely aware of how individual behaviors help to improve it while conducting our daily routines.”
Jim Beasley, The state Department of Health and Environmental Control, said that the EPA ozone standard of 70 parts per millions is met by the entire South Carolina region. Previously the standard was 75 parts per million but in 2015 it was reduced to 70 based on risk assessments and scientific studies. The latest average reading for Greenville County was 64, and the three year average was below 70. According to Beasley, “To continuously improve air quality and go beyond the national standards, our agency has partnered with local governments, industries, communities, and other stakeholders to form local Air Quality Coalitions across the state. The Upstate Coalition has worked for many years to implement local, voluntary strategies to educate the public about the health impacts of air pollution and to improve air quality.”
A new online tool has been included in the current report. The study allows users to view the number of deaths, illnesses and impacted days. Users can see this data from more than 650 counties in the Continental Unites States. Cromar says that “This previously unavailable information is designed to increase public awareness and better inform public decision making with regard to the management of outdoor air pollution.”
In the L.A.-Long Beach-Glendale area, approximately 1,341 people die per year due to air pollution. This makes L.A. the area having the deadliest air quality in the nation. At number two is the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario metropolitan area where an estimated 808 people die annually due to air pollution.