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Eliminating Air Pollution Emissions in the United States Would Help Reduce Premature Death Rates, Study Finds

According to a new study performed by the researchers at the Wisconsin–Madison University, removing air pollution emissions from energy-related activities in the United States would help prevent over 50,000 premature deaths annually and offer over $600 billion in benefits every year from avoided illness and death.

Eliminating Air Pollution Emissions in the United States Would Help Reduce Premature Death Rates, Study Finds.

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com/ Balazs Vekony

A new study has reported the health benefits of eliminating hazardous fine particulates discharged into the air by electricity generation, transportation, industrial activities, and building functions like cooking and heating.

Also, significant sources of carbon dioxide emissions result in climate change, as they predominantly depend on burning fossil fuels like oil, coal, and natural gas.

The study has been recently reported in the GeoHealth journal.

Our work provides a sense of the scale of the air quality health benefits that could accompany deep decarbonization of the U.S. energy system. Shifting to clean energy sources can provide enormous benefit for public health in the near term while mitigating climate change in the longer term.

Nick Mailloux, Study Lead Author and Graduate Student, Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Collaborating with researchers specializing in air quality and public health, Mailloux utilized a model from the US Environmental Protection Agency to identify the health benefits of a complete decrease in emissions of fine particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. Such compounds can develop particulate matter as soon as it is liberated into the air.

Such pollutants contribute to health issues like stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lower respiratory infections that can considerably shorten lifespans.

According to the analysis made by the scientists, getting rid of such pollutants would save nearly 53,200 lives annually in the United States, offering around $608 billion in benefits from prevented healthcare charges and loss of life.

Furthermore, the scientists studied the health effects if regions of the country were to serve separately to reduce emissions rather than as part of concerted countrywide measures. The impacts can vary extensively in different parts of the United States, in part due to regional changes in energy use and population.

The Southwest, a region including California, Arizona and Nevada, would maintain 95% of the advantages if it shifted alone to remove fine particle emissions.

In the Mountain region, though, most of the benefit of emissions removal is felt somewhere else. Just 32 percent of the benefit remains in states in the Mountain region. This is partly because there are large population centers downwind of the Mountain region that would also benefit.

Nick Mailloux, Study Lead Author and Graduate Student, Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Each region of the country sees more benefits from countrywide action compared to acting alone to decrease emissions.

The Great Plains, for example, gets more than twice as much benefit from nationwide efforts as it does from acting alone. The more that states and regions can coordinate their emissions reductions efforts, the greater the benefit they can provide to us all.

Nick Mailloux, Study Lead Author and Graduate Student, Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin–Madison

The scientists believe that by describing the near-term payoffs as well as the risks of more distant climate impacts, the new study inspires more action on climate change.

Our analysis is timely, following last month’s report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that called for urgent action to transform the world’s energy economy,” states Jonathan Patz, senior author of the study and a UW–Madison professor in the Nelson Institute and Department of Population Health Sciences.

Jonathan Patz adds, “My hope is that our research findings might spur decision-makers grappling with the necessary move away from fossil fuels, to shift their thinking from burdens to benefits.”

Source: https://www.wisc.edu/

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