Air Pollution

An estimate 5,660 lives is saved due to lower air pollution levels in New York State in 2012; compared to 2002 levels, as per a study. The study led by Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Observatory atmospheric chemistry research group looked; at New York State levels of a specific kind of pollution known as fine particulate matter, or “PM2.5.”

“Burning fossil fuels releases gases and chemicals into the air.” And in an especially destructive feedback loop; air pollution not only contributes to climate change but is also exacerbate by it. “Air pollution in the form of carbon dioxide and methane raises the earth’s temperature. However, these microscopic particulates; are a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets.

Complex reactions of chemicals

However, some come from burning fuel; and others form in the atmosphere as a result of complex reactions of chemicals; such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides from power plants, industries and automobiles. Long-term exposure to PM2.5 can lead to respiratory; and cardiovascular problems.

However, the study compared seven datasets, including both on-the-ground and satellite measurements; to analyze trends in PM2.5 levels across New York State. The researchers found that PM2.5 levels dropped by 28 to 37 % between 2002 and 2012. But they calculate that this drop cut the air pollution mortality burden for New York State residents by 67 % from 8,410 premature deaths in 2002 to 2,750 deaths in 2012.

What is novel about this study is that we use seven different PM2.5 exposure estimates to analyze the long-term change in mortality burden, and they all show a consistent decrease in mortality burden.” Xiaomeng Jin, the Lamont researcher who led the study. The study considered four ailments trigger by long-term exposure to fine particulate matter: chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases; ischemic heart disease, lung cancer, and cerebrovascular and ischemic stroke.

Programs to reduce air pollution

The study gives evidence that emission controls on air pollutants; initiate by the Clean Air Act of 1970 and expand under amendments pass  in 1990 require a review of scientific evidence on which standards are set and implement; improve public health across New York State, say researchers.

“But the reviews sometimes result in stricter standards which is set; which in turn set in motion the process of emission controls to meet those standards,” said Lamont atmospheric chemist and co-author of the study Arlene Fiore. Among the other factors that have helped clear the air: continued progress in cleaner vehicles; additional programs to reduce air pollution, including programs targeting diesel fuel, a source of sulfur dioxide; and the reduction of high sulfur dioxide-emitting coal-burning power plants.