Researchers say that recent reductions in vehicle emissions have saved thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars in the United States.

Researchers at Harvard University studying the environment and public health examined the impact of decreasing vehicle emissions over a decade. They found that deaths fell from 27,700 in 2008 to 19,800 in 2017 and that the economic benefits of reducing emissions amounted to $ 270 billion.

In a study published Wednesday in the procedures of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers also concluded that if vehicles continued to emit air pollution at 2008 levels over the time period, the total deaths in 2017 would have been 2.4 times higher.

Light vehicles such as cars, trucks and SUVs accounted for a significant part of the health burden that was reduced by stricter regulations on fossil fuel companies and vehicle manufacturers, according to the study.

But the researchers found these benefits were limited by a growing and aging population and by drivers who bought bigger cars and drove more.

“Despite substantial progress in reducing emissions, you have this effect of counteracting the population and larger vehicles,” said Ernani Choma, an environmental health researcher at Harvard and lead author of the study. “So it will be difficult to make substantial progress if we don’t enact tougher policies.”

While there has been previous research on the health benefits and economic impacts of emissions reductions, this study presents a more accurate picture of how emissions affect public health, according to experts unaffiliated with the research team.

“Good environmental policy has dramatically reduced emissions from transportation over the past decade,” said Sumil Thakrar, an air quality researcher at the University of Minnesota. “But getting a good understanding of the benefits of those emissions controls is difficult because it requires keeping track of so many other moving parts. And I think the authors do an extraordinary job. “

The study also looked at the climate benefits that resulted from curbing air pollution from vehicles, but found that those benefits only accounted for 3% to 19% of overall economic gains.

That’s because most approaches to reducing emissions from transportation in the U.S. have aimed to curb air pollution, not climate change, said Susan Anenberg, associate professor of environmental and occupational health and health. Global at George Washington University.

#VehicleEmission Slows Death Drop, Study Finds. #health #contamination

“The catalytic converters, the diesel particulate filters, those are removing pollutants from the (environment), but they are doing nothing for (carbon dioxide),” he said.

That’s one reason Choma and his colleagues recommend stricter policies to curb emissions. Another reason, he said, is that if the upward trend in population and vehicle size and use continues, the same policies that created the health benefits highlighted in the study won’t be as effective in the future.

“If you look to 2030 and nothing has changed, you will only see a modest drop” in deaths from vehicle emissions, he said. “So that’s the case with stricter policies.”

The Associated Press Department of Health and Science receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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