In March 2011, EPA issued the Second Prospective Report which looked at the results of the Clean Air Act from 1990 to 2020. According to this study, the direct benefits from the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments are estimated to reach almost $2 trillion for the year 2020, a figure that dwarfs the direct costs of implementation ($65 billion).
In 2020, the Clean Air Act Amendments will prevent over 230,000 early deaths. Most of the $2 trillion in economic benefits (about 85 percent) are attributable to reductions in premature mortality associated with reductions in ambient particulate matter.
The central benefits estimate exceeds costs by a factor of more than 30 to one, and the high benefits estimate exceeds costs by 90 times. Even the low benefits estimate exceeds costs by about three to one.
There are more lives to be saved and damage to be prevented by eliminating particulate air pollution with stronger controls or a shift to nuclear power from coal or a shift from oil for cars.
Particulate air pollution still many millions of tons
Air pollution has been reduced but it is still very high. Even for the United States the fine particulates still is over 5 million tons per year.
Air pollution deaths compared to World war 2 military deaths per year
Air pollution from smoke and various chemicals kills 3 million people a year. In the United States alone about 3 million tons of toxic chemicals are released into the environment — contributing to cancer, birth defects, immune system defects and many other serious health problems.
Soil is contaminated by many chemicals and pathogens, which are passed on to humans through direct contact or via food and water. Increased soil erosion worldwide not only results in more soil being blown but spreading of disease microbes and various toxins.
With 1.2 billion people lacking clean water, waterborne infections account for 80 percent of all infectious diseases. Increased water pollution creates breeding grounds for malaria-carrying mosquitoes, killing 1.2 million to 2.7 million people a year, and air pollution kills about 3 million people a year. Unsanitary living conditions account for more than 5 million deaths each year, of which more than half are children.
If the pollution problem were fixed, society would save more money from on lower health costs, work absenteeism and less property damage (acid rain to cars and buildings) and people live longer and healthier lives.
Air pollution deaths and damage are far more than any imagined boogey man of climate change or fear of the potential damage of radioactive material. If the radioactive material is not near you then it cannot do anything to you. As has been stated particulates are going into the air in the US alone at 5 million tons per year.
Sweeping the pollution off a roof near a Chinese coal plant
The US had 291,000 combat deaths in world war 2 from 1941-1945. About 73,000 deaths per year on average in world war 2. Air pollution in the United States kills 60,000 each year. There were 53,400 US combat deaths in two years of World War 1.
There were 22 -25 million military deaths from World War 2 from 1939-1945 So 3-3.5 million deaths per year over 7 years. Worldwide air pollution deaths are basically like military casualties from World War 2 in terms of the scale of deaths.
The argument over healthcare in the United States is not talking about the over 30% of medical costs that are related to air pollution. Healthcare would be far more affordable if we fixed air pollution and had healthier people.
A recent study by London’s Queen Mary University linked particulate matter exposure to pneumonia, particularly among children. It found that Londoners breathe in air that is more harmful than that in Accra, the capital of Ghana. Although London’s air is no more polluted than Accra’s overall, wood smoke, prevalent in poorer countries, is less toxic to the airway cells than the diesel exhausts that waft through the rich world’s urban centres.
Curbing air pollution in major European cities could save 19,000 lives per year, add almost two years to local life expectancy and save 31.5 billion euros (43.4 billion dollars) in health costs and work absenteeism The nearly three-year probe, called Aphekom, looked at 25 cities in 12 European Union (EU) countries, encompassing nearly 39 million inhabitants.
Fine particulates are tiny airborne grains that can be drawn deep into the lungs, with the potential to cause respiratory and cardiovascular disease.
The pollution comes from traffic exhausts, which means that it is particularly pronounced near major roads.
In a sub-set of 10 cities studied by Aphekom, scientists estimated that between 15 and 30 percent of cases of childhood asthma could attributed to living close to busy roads.
Studies conducted in various parts of the world have revealed a strong link between type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases and continuous exposure to ultra fine particulate matter present in the air.
“But we can no longer say that only lifestyle and obesity are the only causes of diabetes as we see patients who have a healthy lifestyle and are not obese contracting diabetes,” said Dr V Mohan of Mohan’s Diabetes Specialities Centre. Emerging evidences show the pollutants prevent insulin from working properly and reduces the ability of insulin in lowering blood sugars, resulting in diabetes.
“Particulate matter in the air which is very fine and is less than 2.5 microns in size is called PM2.5 and has been known to cause diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Especially if people are already predisposed to diabetes, as many Indians are, the pollutants could aggravate the problem,” said professor of cardiovascular medicine at the Ohio State University, Dr Sanjay Rajagopalan.
He said that in the 1980s and 1990s the focus was on particulate matter greater than 10 microns in size which are known to cause respiratory problems, but now many countries have started identifying the harmful effects of PM2.5.
“In the US and Europe, standards for PM2.5 are 15 microgram per cubic metre annually. In metropolitan cities of India like Chennai, the levels are higher than 50,” said Dr Sanjay. He added that the level of the pollutants in Indian cities were 10-20 times higher than cities in the US and Europe. “Most of these pollutants are extremely fine particulate matter released from automobile exhausts and power plants which are found in all big cities,” he said.
With India fast emerging as the diabetes capital of the world, it is important for the government to introduce regulatory standards and gradually decrease levels of PM2.5 in the cities.
Particulates are easier and cheaper to prevent going into the air than carbon dioxide. Soot (large particles) also make ice cap melting worse by darkening the ice. 30% of healthcare costs are air pollution related.
It seems so obvious that this would be an easy win in terms of savings of lives and money. The US could afford more healthcare if there were less health problems to cover. Better budgets and lives saved.
Lengthy Appendix that shows some of the evidence of the health damage of particulates and air pollution
In a recent estimate of the global burden of disease (GBD), outdoor air pollution was estimated to account for approximately 1.4% of total mortality, 0.4% of all disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), and 2% of all cardiopulmonary disease. To obtain estimates of the impact of outdoor air pollution, population exposures are based on current concentrations of particulate matter (PM) measured as either PM10 or PM2.5 (i.e. PM less than 10 µm or 2.5 µm in diameter, respectively). PM is a mixture of liquid and solid particle sizes and chemicals that varies in composition both spatially and temporally. After multiplying the exposure concentrations by the numbers of people exposed, concentration-response functions from the epidemiological literature are applied. These functions relate ambient PM concentrations to cases of premature mortality, and enable the attributable risk to be calculated.
Most of the health evidence on PM has been derived from epidemiological studies of human populations in a variety of geographical (principally urban) locations. Epidemiological studies have provided “real world” evidence of associations between concentrations of PM and several adverse health outcomes including: mortality, hospital admissions for cardiovascular and respiratory disease, urgent care visits, asthma attacks, acute bronchitis, respiratory symptoms, and restrictions in activity. In a recent estimate of the global burden of disease (GBD), outdoor air pollution was found to account for approximately 1.4% of total mortality, 0.5% of all disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) and 2% of all cardiopulmonary disease (Ezzati et al., 2002; WHO, 2002, Cohen et al, 2004). These estimates of the total disease burden were based solely on the effects of PM on mortality in adults and children. Because the epidemiological studies suggested that mortality impacts were likely to occur primarily among the elderly, the WHO estimates indicated that 81% of the attributable deaths from outdoor air pollution and 49% of the attributable DALYs occurred in people aged 60 years and older. Children under 5 years of age accounted for 3% of the total attributable deaths from outdoor air pollution and 12% of the attributable DALYs (WHO, 2002).
The GBD estimates were based on average urban concentrations of PM10 and PM2.5 (particulate matter less than 10 μm and 2.5 μm in diameter, respectively) as markers for outdoor air pollution. Traditionally, monitors for PM have been established to determine the concentration of pollutants in regional and background population exposures. As such, the estimates incorporated some of the larger urban sources of pollution such as traffic, industrial boilers and incineration. On the other hand, because the monitors were fixed-site, the estimates did not take into account pollution “hot spots” that may have affected segments of the population, without affecting the overall urban average. In addition, the GBD estimates did not incorporate the effects of outdoor air pollution in cities with a population less than 100 000 or in rural populations, nor the effects of other pollutants such as ozone and toxic air contaminants not included in the mixture of PM10.
The acute effects of high level particulate matter exposure episodes on human mortality
and morbidity is well documented.
Air quality criteria for particulate matter
Air pollution and morbidity revisited: A specification test
Association of particulate matter components with daily mortality and morbidity in urban populations.
Women in polluted areas at higher risk of cardiovascular disease
The study is one of the largest of its kind, involving more than 65,000 Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study participants, age 50 to 79, living in 36 cities across the United States.
Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle have found postmenopausal women living in U.S. cities and exposed to average levels of fine particulate matter pollution, or PM 2.5, were drastically more at risk for getting cardiovascular disease and dying from its complications.
The study, which will appear Feb. 1 in the New England Journal of Medicine, is the largest study of its kind and the first to evaluate the effects of air pollution on new cases of cardiovascular disease in healthy subjects. It’s also the first to examine local air-pollution levels within a city — by taking data from several air-quality monitors in different neighborhoods of one city — rather than comparing rates between cities, which is considered a less accurate measure.
The metropolitan areas tested in Kaufman and colleagues’ study generally had average levels of PM pollution, from about 4 to 20 micrograms per cubic meter.
But with each increase of 10 micrograms per cubic meter there was a 24-percent increase in the risk of a cardiovascular event among the study subjects and a 76-percent rise in the risk of death, the researchers found.
The researchers corrected for age, race, smoking status, educational level, household income and other markers that could skew the results.
PM can travel into the deepest areas of the lungs when inhaled, and exposure has been linked in past studies to several health conditions, from aggravated asthma to premature death in people with heart and lung disease, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The California Children’s Health Study showed PM 2.5 exposure was linked to a slowing of lung growth in children, which compromised the lungs’ long-term function. The research found both long-term and short-term exposure to fine particles is associated with sickness and death.
A follow-up to one major study, Harvard’s Six Cities, suggested a reduction in PM 2.5 levels subsequently lowers a person’s long-term risk of death.
Unlike earlier studies, it looked not just at deaths, but also at heart attacks, coronary disease, strokes and clogged arteries. These problems were 24 percent more likely with every 10-unit rise in particles. Almost 3 percent of the women suffered some kind of cardiovascular problem.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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