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6/29/17

Global Warming: New Research Finds Air Pollution is Far Deadlier than Previously Thought: by Dr. Jeff Masters

The U.S. standards for our two deadliest air pollutants--ground-level ozone and fine particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5 )--are not stringent enough to prevent thousands of premature air pollution deaths each year among the elderly, found a study by Harvard University scientists, led by Qian Di, released Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. The research was exceptionally vast and lengthy, covering all 61 million Americans on Medicare, age 65 and older, for the thirteen years from 2000 to 2012.

The EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) sets the acceptable annual average concentration of PM2.5 pollution at 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air. However, the study discovered that PM2.5 concentrations as low as 5 micrograms per cubic meter caused significantly increased death rates, and found no “safe” level of PM2.5 below which the risk of death tapered off. In a press release accompanying the paper, the researchers said that if the level of PM2.5 could be lowered by just 1 microgram per cubic meter nationwide, about 12,000 lives could be saved every year. Similarly, if the level of ozone could be lowered by just 1 part per billion (ppb) nationwide, about 1,900 lives would be saved each year. The current EPA standard for ozone is 70 ppb for an 8-hour average; there is no annual average standard set for ozone, like there is for PM2.5 , and the researchers said that "our results strengthen the argument for establishing seasonal or annual standards" for ozone.

“This study shows that although we think air quality in the United States is good enough to protect our citizens, in fact we need to lower pollution levels even further,” said Joel Schwartz, professor of environmental epidemiology at Harvard and the study’s senior author.

Death certificates never list air pollution as the cause of death. Nevertheless, air pollution is a huge and silent killer: about 3 million premature deaths per year globally are due to outdoor air pollution. Between 91,000 and 100,000 air pollution deaths per year occur in the U.S., according to separate studies done in 2016 by the World Bank and the Health Effects Institute (a U.S. non-profit corporation funded by the EPA and the auto industry.) Even higher U.S. air pollution deaths in excess of 200,000 per year were estimated for 2005 in a 2013 MIT study.

Air pollution deaths are calculated using epidemiological studies, which correlate death rates with air pollution levels. Air pollution has been proven to increase the incidence of death due to stroke, heart attack and lung disease. Since these causes of death are also due to other factors—such as life style and family history—we typically refer to air pollution deaths as premature deaths. A premature air pollution-related death typically occurs about twelve years earlier than it otherwise might have, according to Caiazzo et al., 2013.


Read more: New Research Finds Air Pollution is Far Deadlier than Previously Thought by Dr. Jeff Masters | Category 6 | Weather Underground

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