Numerous reports have recently highlighted the health risks of air pollution, including a recent study by the WHO which shows that 90% of people now breathe high levels of pollutants.
This can increase the risk of lung problems, especially in the elderly and other vulnerable groups, and eventually leads to around 7 million deaths a year globally.
Now, a study by Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health has highlighted the importance of developing stronger emissions policies to benefit consumers’ long-term health.
The study found that policies that encourage green alternatives and work to reduce vehicle emissions could help to reduce the number of deaths caused by air pollution.
To assess this, the researchers analyzed vehicle emissions over a 9-year period – from 2008 through to 2017 – and compared emission levels and mortality rates over the years. They also noted the types of cars that were driven and the demographics of the drivers.
They found that the number of deaths fell during this time from 27,700 to 19,800, and the researchers put this decline down to enhanced efforts to reduce vehicle emissions.
In fact, the researchers predicted that, if policies were not put in place over this time to control emissions, the number of deaths could have been as high as 48,200.
However, they also noted that, despite strong progress being made in the last decade, a few types of vehicles were still contributing to harmful levels of emissions. For example, light-duty vehicles were linked to two-thirds of all pollution-related health conditions globally.
Going forward, the researchers are calling for additional measures to be put in place to lower vehicle emissions further and protect the public.
Researcher John Spengler added, “Our study findings strengthen the case for policies at the municipal level that encourage electric vehicles while discouraging conventional gasoline vehicles and for making our cities more accessible for non-motorized transportation such as biking or walking.”