By Sarah Adamo
New studies citing data primarily from 2005 to 2018 are confirming a troubling reality — even when air pollution is kept below ‘safe’ guidelines, exposure can still be fatal, according to CNN.
CNN reports indicate that air pollution created in one state can be carried across state lines where they can wreak havoc on the health of individuals hundreds of miles away. More than half of pollution-related deaths in the U.S. result from pollutants that originated in a different state.
Much of this pollution comes from the northern Midwestern states based on calculations from pollution-related early deaths outside state lines, according to CNN.
Such states are being referred to as “exporters” of air pollution that invades neighboring states and hence affects a greater population. Some factors that account for this are the comparatively small local populations, activities that result in high emissions and many residents who are located downwind, according to CNN. The northeast population, in turn, is a high “importer” of air pollution-related early deaths.
Out of the 48 states included in the study, New York was found to have almost two-thirds of early deaths linked to cross-state pollution that began in other states, according to The New York Times.
The toxic pollutants studied in this research are ozone, sulfur dioxide, and fine airborne particles, which primarily come from fuel burning, according to The New York Times. Policymakers must look into cleaner means of fuel combustion to abate air pollution and control cross-state emissions before the death toll worsens.
Fortunately, the study also indicates that the past decade saw reductions in these potentially fatal emissions. Electric power generation, the chief contributor to out-of-state pollution-related deaths, has seen a decline in its early-death consequences, according to MIT News.
Related early-deaths decreased by 30 percent in 2018 when compared to the figures collected in 2005, translating to approximately 30,000 premature deaths that were averted, according to MIT News. The overall fraction of deaths for which “imported” cross-state emissions are responsible has dwindled from 53 percent in 2005 to 41 percent in 2018.
The source further explains that regulations such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Act and other modifications over that time period have contributed to this decline of pollution created from electric power generation.
Action is still needed to address this issue, however. Other sectors are now emitting larger quantities of sulfur dioxide, among other pollutants. MIT News cites study leader Steven Barrett, an associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics at the university who offered commentary on the predicament.
“‘To make further progress, we should start focusing on road transportation and commercial and residential emissions,’” he told MIT News.