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What Kills More People, Car Accidents or Air Pollution?

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By Diane Bailey

Air pollution.  It kills 25 people a day to be exact. 

California is notorious for having the worst air pollution in the country, resulting in thousands of emergency room trips, billions of dollars in healthcare costs, thousands of lost work and school days and as released in a recent state report, air pollution in California is responsible for killing 9,200 people every year  (versus roughly 3,400 traffic fatalities in 2008).

This is an astounding public health problem however you look at it. Many reports have projected different estimates of the number of people killed by air pollution with fairly wide ranges depending on the scientific modeling employed and the base data, yet all finding a clear link between fine particulate pollution and premature death  (see the latest EPA review for details). The latest report from CARB uses EPA’s model to estimate mortality based on California air monitoring data.   The mortality estimate is only half of the previous estimate from several years ago.  However, the new estimate not only utilizes EPA’s methods for consistency’s sake, it is based on a much more robust, recent and thoroughly verified study that is more precise than previous studies, albeit also more conservative.  

What does all this mean for statewide diesel regulations currently under heavy scrutiny in a tough economy?  It shows that the state has been on the right track cleaning up the major sources of fine particulate such as diesel soot.  The thing is, diesel particulate pollution is preventable, but industry is opposing any regulations that would restrict or reduce this pollution source because it will ultimately be more expensive than keeping the status quo of allowing dilapidated diesel trucks to continue to haul goods up and down California’s freeways spewing black soot out the back and into lungs of those nearby.

Yes, cleaning up these dirty practices will most likely cost more per truck, but factor in the roughly $30 billion dollars Californians pay each year on health issues from air pollution, and it makes a lot more sense to prevent the problem before it gets into our bodies and makes us sick.  In an effort to reduce the economic burden on owners, the state has made hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds are available as grants and loan assistance available to those who are willing to step up early to clean up their diesel engines or invest in technology that’s even cleaner than what is required.

We have the tools today to eliminate this lethal pollution, and California’s diesel clean up regulations do just that. We need to stop allowing this pollution to end lives early, clean up the brown halo of smog blanketing entire regions, and allow our cities’ beautiful skylines to shine.

Original post on NRDC Switchboard


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