Dramatic Health Benefits Following Air Pollution Reduction

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  1. Starting at week one of a ban on smoking in Ireland, there was a 13% drop in all-cause mortality, a 26% reduction in ischemic heart disease, a 32% reduction in stroke, and a 38% reduction in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The greatest benefits in that case occurred among non-smokers.
  2. In the United States, a 13-month closure of a steel mill in Utah resulted in reducing hospitalizations for pneumonia, pleurisy, bronchitis and asthma by half. School absenteeism decreased by 40 percent, and daily mortality fell by 16 percent for every 100 µg/m3 PM10 decrease. Women who were pregnant during the mill closing were less likely to have premature births.
  3. A 17-day “transportation strategy,” in Atlanta, Georgia during the 1996 Olympic Games involved closing parts of the city to help athletes make it to their events on time, but also greatly decreased air pollution. In the following four weeks, children’s visits for asthma to clinics dropped by more than 40 percent and trips to emergency departments by 11 percent. Hospitalizations for asthma decreased by 19 percent. Similarly, when China imposed factory and travel restrictions for the Beijing Olympics, lung function improved within two months, with fewer asthma-related physician visits and less cardiovascular mortality.
  4. In Nigeria, families who had clean cook stoves that reduced indoor air pollution during a nine-month pregnancy term saw higher birthweights, greater gestational age at delivery, and less perinatal mortality.
  5. 25 years after enactment of the Clean Air Act, the U.S. EPA estimated that the health benefits exceeded the cost by 32:1, saving 2 trillion dollars, and has been heralded as one of the most effective public health policies of all time in the United States. Emissions of the major pollutants (particulate matter [PM], sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and lead) were reduced by 73 percent between 1990 and 2015 while the U.S. gross domestic product grew by more than 250 percent.

(Source: Abstracts from American Thoracic Society’s journal, Annals of the American Thoracic Society.)

Dr KK Aggarwal

President CMAAO, HCFI and Past National President IMA