A recent study has questioned national air pollution standards and suggests that decreasing the levels allowed by law could save lives. In fact, the study claims that air pollution is responsible for as many as 30,000 deaths in 2015, the most recent year included in the study. The report, conducted by researchers from Imperial College London and the Center for Air, Climate and Energy Solutions at Carnegie Mellon University, outlined a link between deaths throughout the United States from cardiovascular conditions and the measures of air pollution present at the time.
Published in PLOS Medicine, the study reported on the measurements of air pollution particles, called atmospheric particulate matter, in the U.S. over a period of 16 years. The report demonstrated that areas with more particulate matter in the air saw more deaths from cardiorespiratory causes.
The study involved PM2.5, atmospheric particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers, which is approximately 30 times smaller than the width of a human hair. PM2.5 is most commonly released from factories, power plants, and cars. These particles are so small that they can be inhaled and make their way into the bloodstream.
The data researchers compiled came from over 750 air quality monitoring stations throughout the contiguous U.S., along with air pollution measurements from satellite imaging and other pollution-detecting observation tools. This data was then cross-referenced with information on deaths between 1999 to 2015 recorded by the National Center for Health Statistics. Of the 41.9 million deaths in the U.S. during that period, 18.4 million resulted from cardiorespiratory conditions. Such conditions have been repeatedly linked with air pollution.
Interestingly, despite the correlation to deaths outlined in the study, the amount of PM2.5 in the air has decreased since 1999 in the U.S. The current allowable limit of PM2.5 is 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air (ug/m3). During the period highlighted by the study, there were reports of measurements as high as 22.1ug/m3. By 2015, the highest measurement was 13.2ug/m3, and the lowest recorded concentration was 2.8ug/m3.
The study used these 2015 concentrations as a range and linked 30,000 cardiorespiratory deaths to measurements between 2.8ug/m3 and 13.2ug/m3. Within this range, which it is important to note falls mostly below the current standard of 12ug/m3, an estimated 15,612 women and 14,757 men died from heart and lung conditions, including heart attacks and asthma.
Yet, current policy initiatives aim to appease industry heads and special-interest influencers to allow these limits to be relaxed. The study indicated that such a change would result in more unnecessary deaths.
If you lost a family member to an illness linked to environmental factors or you are currently experiencing negative health effects after a damaging environmental exposure, the Wilmington environmental lawyers at Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. can help you obtain compensation for your suffering. Call us today at 302-656-5445 or contact us online to set up a free consultation. Located in Wilmington and Georgetown, Delaware, we represent clients throughout Dover, New Castle County, and Sussex County.