Reducing Traffic Pollution Linked to Longer Lives
Urban Air Pollution
While small cities in many European countries meet the air quality standards put forth by the European Union (EU) over 400,000 premature deaths in Europe can be attributed to air pollution. In Malmö, Sweden, Lund University performed an experimental study on the population of 320,000 to understand what happened when all exhaust fumes are removed from the city. Malmö regularly stays below the threshold standards provided by the EU for particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). However, researchers believe that reducing traffic-related air pollution would reduce the number of illnesses and premature deaths. The Lund University Study found that 55-93 premature deaths (2-4% of all cases) could be prevented each year by reducing air pollution. Cases of asthma, bronchitis, and other respiratory diseases would also decline significantly, decreasing the number of lost work days and reduced job productivity caused by respiratory-related illnesses.
Follow the Data
American scientists and universities have conducted related studies and have concluded similar results. In a study performed by Harvard University, Francesca Dominici, a professor of biostatistics at Harvard’s School of Public Health, stated, “[It was] found that the mortality rate increases almost linearly as air pollution increases. Any level of air pollution, no matter how low, is harmful to human health.” Even the most conservative estimates find that the likelihood of dying from tailpipe emission is seven times higher than that of a traffic related accident (Lund University). These coinciding studies draw similar disturbing conclusions: the emission standards put forth by national health agencies worldwide are far from safe. Instead of following research, guidelines are instead created through compromise between World Health Organizations and politicians. Policymakers must be pushed to make the air safer for all. Cities, such as Malmö, have discussed further decreasing emissions by employing environmental zones, areas that prohibit the use of diesel or petroleum cars within them. Their citizens have advocated for policy change to reduce the number of premature deaths and respiratory illnesses in their area and should be seen as an example for the residents of other cities to help improve air quality in their neighborhoods.
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