The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

New study puts numbers on air pollution deaths

Dec 6, 2004

Everyone knows that air pollution is bad for you. In urban areas, high ozone levels commonly trigger health warnings and pleas for the public to do things like wait until sundown to gas up the car.

Now a study of 95 cities by Yale University has established that for every 10 parts per billion increase in ozone levels, the death rate rises a half a%, and even more for people who already have heart or lung problems. For the cities in the Yale study, it meant 3,767 premature deaths per year.

Ozone results when sunlight reacts with nitrogen oxides. By far the largest amount of nitrogen oxides in the air come from power plants, diesel engines and gasoline-powered motors, including those in cars. Power plant operators and vehicle manufacturers have for many years fought to prevent laws that could force them to use some of their precious profits to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions.

Up to now, politicians and industries commonly used the old tobacco-company defense: "We have no conclusive scientific studies." It is truly amazing that it has taken all these years before such a study was produced! In any case, the Yale study is quite conclusive. Moreover, its authors say that its death estimates are almost certainly understated.

Will we see government and industry take this new, conclusive information and dedicate all the necessary resources to cutting down the pollution death rate?

Don't hold your breath.