Clean Air Act May Be Saving More Lives Than Thought

From - January 4, 2018

Clean Air Act May Be Saving More Lives Than Thought

THURSDAY, Jan. 4, 2018 -- The number of Americans who die each year from inhaling fine-particle pollutants has dropped dramatically since 1970, thanks to laws that originated from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

That finding stems from an investigation, led by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers, into the impact of EPA rules enacted by the 1970 Clean Air Act and amendments added to it in 1990.

The legislation regulated air pollutant emissions and promoted efforts to find clean alternatives.

The EPA itself had estimated in 2011 that the agency's efforts had translated into an estimated 100,000 lives saved every year from 2000 to 2010.

However, the MIT analysis found that the EPA had underestimated its impact.

The agency had neglected to factor in the effect of its efforts to limit exposure to so-called "organic aerosol," the researchers said. That's a pollutant that stems largely from such things as car emissions, residential burning and wildfires.

"The EPA report showed a very large impact from the decline in particulate matter, but we were surprised to see a very little change in the organic aerosol concentration in their estimates," study author David Ridley noted in an MIT news release. "The observations suggest that the decrease in organic aerosol had been six times larger than estimated between 2000 and 2010 in the EPA report."

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