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MIT study says Air pollution kills 200,000 per year in the US

By Paul Wallis     Sep 2, 2013 in Environment
Sydney - The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has found that nearly a quarter of a million premature deaths are caused by air pollution, including 53,000 by auto emissions. These findings may also put a big dent in other premature death statistics.
MIT’s report indicates that the ghosts of the industrial revolution are cutting a scythe through the population.
From MIT News
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.
“Premature death” includes a few qualifiers. It means that people die about 10 years before they otherwise would. The worst city in the US for air pollution deaths was Baltimore, with 130 likely deaths per 100,000 people. California got the worst annual result among the states, with 21,000 annual air-pollution-related deaths.
Across the US, different types of pollution are local problems:
East coast: Power, road and combustion emissions
West coast: Marine pollution
Midwest: Power pollution
These numbers will have a ripple effect through air pollution studies. A recent University of North Carolina study came up with a figure of two million global deaths due to air pollution per year.
If the MIT’s estimate is accurate for the US, which gives the nation 10 percent of the death rate with 5 percent or so of the world’s population, the global picture could be much worse.
Huffington Post cites the UNC study:
Most of the estimated global deaths likely occur in East and South Asia, which have large populations and severe air pollution, said study researcher Jason West, an assistant professor of environmental sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
"Air pollution is an important problem. It's probably one of the most important environmental risk factors for health," West said. The study suggests that improving air quality around the world would increase life expectancy for some, he said.
That’s the point of agreement between the studies. The equation is that the higher the population, the worse the air pollution, and the more deaths. Infrastructure, industry, and traffic are doing the damage.
Also now in question are the accepted figures for causes of respiratory deaths. This very high incidence of air pollution deaths may require a more detailed study of respiratory disease to clarify actual causes of death.
The Industrial Revolution caused some of the worst pollution in history and horrendous public health issues. The 20th century population boom also caused more pollution, as billions of new cars hit the roads of the world and global industry took over. China, with a fifth of the world’s population, is suffocating under the shroud of smog its industrial success has caused.
MIT's study has raised the stakes in terms of risks for the future. Air pollution has been a major issue since the 1950s, and it’s getting worse in terms of public health issue. Bear in mind that for each death, there are more people suffering. This isn’t just a problem, it’s an ongoing disaster.
More about Massachusetts Institute of Technology, air pollution deaths 2013, USA air pollution deaths, global air pollution, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
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