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article imageStudy: The Air We Breath May Be More Deadly Than Car Crashes

By Nikki Weingartner     Nov 13, 2008 in Environment
California based study designed to show economic benefits of lowering air pollution into federal ranges has unveiled another interesting artifact. Nearly 1,300 more deaths were caused by pollution related illness than car crashes.
Researchers at the California State University - Fullerton have found some pretty interesting information relating to pollution and the costs associated. However, what really makes a statement is when they compared deaths by auto accidents in a specified area to deaths by respiratory illness caused by pollution, the number of pollution related deaths was much higher.
According to the AP, the economy-based study that focused primarily on Southern California and San Joaquin Valley noted that:
meeting federal ozone and fine particulate standards could save $28 billion annually in health care costs, school absences, missed work and lost income potential from premature deaths.
And the goal of the study was simply showing the level of economic benefit if steps were taken simply to reduce the air pollution to levels to within already existing government standards.
Many studies have shown a correlation between particulate pollution and respiratory problems, but there are also links to cardiovascular problems as well. With deaths by vehicle at around 2,500 and those linked to the air being breathed within the same region at 3,800, the extrapolation of death by particulate pollution may be something worth fighting for.
Lead author, Jane Hall, performed ozone analysis and concentrations of fine particulate across South Coast Air Basin and San Joaquin Valley between 2005 and 2007, applying results to known causative health problems.
The Cal State Fullerton study says that particulate pollution levels must fall by 50 percent in both regions for health and economic benefits to occur, something they acknowledged would be "very difficult to achieve."
If pollution levels were to improve to federal standards, the study says residents of the two air basins would suffer 3,860 fewer premature deaths, 3,780 fewer nonfatal heart attacks and would miss 470,000 fewer days of work annually. School children would miss more than 1.2 million fewer days of school, a savings of $112 million in caregiver costs. There also would be more than 2 million fewer cases of upper respiratory problems.
They released their study results to the California Air Resources Board yesterday during controversy over potential new diesel truck regulations that could reportedly save "$68 billion [USD] by 2020" if adopted. However, the proposed emissions regulations could cost $5.5 billion to business owners. Safety is not something that is shirked when looking at things like flight regulations and production plants, so could spending the money to bring pollution levels back down to federal standards be considered a safety issue?
That appears to be the goal.
Although the study was geared at a highly targeted area, the results, specifically at the number of people who die in their vehicles outside of government control and those who die as a direct link to air pollution may serve as a foundation for further analysis in the area of safety and economic benefits for all high-pollution populations.
Hall made a statement that says it all:
"For decades there has been a tug of war over what to do about air pollution. We are paying now for not having done enough."
More about Dirty air, Deadly, Auto accidents
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