Over 90% of the world’s population resides in areas where air pollution levels are alarmingly high. Air pollution has become a public health emergency.
According to a new study by the World Health Organization (WHO), millions of people die annually because of exposure to pollution. “To date, air pollution — both ambient (outdoor) and household (indoor) — is the biggest environmental risk to health, carrying responsibility for about one in every nine deaths annually,” the report states. “Air pollution continues to rise at an alarming rate, and affects economies and people’s quality of life; it is a public health emergency.”
But a new report released by the American Thoracic Society and the Marron Institute of Urban Management at New York University shows that stricter air pollution standards could have health benefits.
The standards advocate 60 parts per billion (ppb) 8-hour standard for ozone (compared with the EPA’s standard of 70 ppb). They suggest a standard of 11 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) annually for PM2.5, rather than the EPA’s 12 µg/m3 annual standard.
The report calculates that adhering to these stronger pollution standards could save 9,320 lives in the United States per year, could reduce serious health events (morbidities), such as heart attacks, hospital admissions and emergency room visits, by 21,400; and decrease “adverse impact days,” during which people may not be able to work, go to school or otherwise be physically active because of severe breathing problems, by 19,300,000 days.
This new report shows that tighter standards for air pollution could save lives.