Deadly Effects of Air Pollution Detailed in MIT Study

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LAWe know that pollution is bad for us, don’t we? And we guess that living in areas with high levels of pollution is probably not good for our health, but we need to live near our job, and populated areas offer more employment opportunity, recreational and cultural opportunities and other advantages. But at what cost? And what can we do to reduce the levels of pollution without significantly changing the life styles we have all become accustomed to? Before we consider draconian changes, we would like to know just how bad it is.

Researchers from MIT’s Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment have come out with some sobering new data on air pollution’s impact on Americans’ health.

The group tracked ground-level emissions from sources such as industrial smokestacks, vehicle tailpipes, marine and rail operations, and commercial and residential heating throughout the United States, and found that such air pollution causes about 200,000 early deaths each year. Emissions from road transportation are the most significant contributor, causing 53,000 premature deaths, followed closely by power generation, with 52,000.

In a state-by-state analysis, the researchers found that California suffers the worst health impacts from air pollution, with about 21,000 early deaths annually, mostly attributed to road transportation and to commercial and residential emissions from heating and cooking.

The researchers also mapped local emissions in 5,695 U.S. cities, finding the highest emissions-related mortality rate in Baltimore, where 130 out of every 100,000 residents likely die in a given year due to long-term exposure to air pollution.

“In the past five to 10 years, the evidence linking air-pollution exposure to risk of early death has really solidified and gained scientific and political traction,” says Steven Barrett, an assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT. “There’s a realization that air pollution is a major problem in any city, and there’s a desire to do something about it.”

The graphic shows the annual average concentrations of fine particulates from U.S. sources of combustion emissions from (a) electric power generation; (b) industry; (c) commercial and residential sources; (d) road transportation; (e) marine transportation; (f) rail transportation; (g) sum of all combustion sources; (h) all sources.

Read more at MIT.

Article by Roger Greenway, appearing courtesy Environmental News Network.

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

  • Sabrina Hill

    According to those maps, I’m in pretty good shape. I live in far west Texas, but NOT in El Paso County, I live 80 miles east of there. I moved there in 2003. before that I lived in west Arizona 85 miles west of Phoenix, and before that, the extreme western end of Oahu, Hawaii. You CAN get out of the rat’s nests if you really want to. Living where I do, I’m not rich, but my wife and I are VERY happy living where the population density is less than one person per five miles.