The email responses to this weeks newsletters have been terrific. The Tuesday newsletter about “never giving up” received the most positive responses this year. A very gratifying email from Mark Nuovo about how my newsletter helped a friend of his going thru a trying time. A lot of people on both sides of the #MeToo debate responded to the #MeToo backlash” newsletter yesterday. I copped it from both sides which surprised me because I thought I was strongly supporting women. Thanks to Eilleen Wheeler Sheehan for her spirited email.
The latest Health of the Air report from the American Thoracic Society (ATS) and New York University (NYU) looked at the health effects of particulate matter and ozone pollution above ATS-recommended levels. The annual number of premature deaths associated with these substances fell from about 12,600 in 2010 to 7,140 in the US in 2017 (over 3 million worldwide). Together, the pollutants were also responsible for some 15,500 serious illnesses, down from nearly 27,000 in 2010.
Those changes were driven almost entirely by improvements in particulate matter pollution, rather than reductions in ozone pollution. U.S. air quality has improved dramatically since the Clean Air Act passed in 1970. Subsequent addendums to the law and newer policies, like regulations on vehicle emissions and the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, have also reduced air pollution.
Since 2010 alone, mortality associated with particulate matter—which is the cause of health problems including respiratory issues, cancer, and heart disease—fell by 60%. But progress began to stall when the Trump Administration began to roll back some environmental protection policies. The American Lung Association’s most recent State of the Air report found more cities had days of high particulate and ozone pollution from 2015-2017 than they did in 2014-2016.
In the new ATS report, only 15% of the 530 counties analyzed for particulate matter concentrations exceeded the group’s recommendations. Meanwhile, levels of ozone pollution, which cause a range of respiratory problems, have remained stable since 2010. More than 80% of the 726 counties analyzed by the ATS for ozone levels did not meet the group’s standards.
That is in part because ozone is more difficult than particulate matter to manage. Particulate matter comes either from direct particle emissions, such as those from smokestacks or fires, or from gases that convert into particulate matter in the atmosphere, such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides produced by power plants and industry. Controlling emissions at the source reliably cuts down on particulate pollution in the atmosphere. But the chemical reaction that creates ozone pollution is more complicated, so it usually takes a coordinated effort at the state, regional and national levels to reduce its impact.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is planning to replace the Clean Power Plan with a new rule relaxing some regulations for the energy industry. They intend to use a new calculation system to reduce the number of premature deaths reported. Experts say the proposed plan, called the Affordable Clean Energy rule, would cause an additional 1,400 deaths per year. The EPA’s new projections would “assume there is little or no health benefit to making the air any cleaner than what the law requires.
Past research, however, strongly suggests that there are benefits associated with reducing pollution below national benchmarks. One 2017 study suggests that virtually any amount of air pollution increases premature death risks.
However, experts say that any modeling method that assumes there are no health benefits beyond what’s decreed by the law “defies rational thinking” and is “bad policy,” since there’s no scientifically accepted threshold at which benefits stop accumulating and health risks vanish.
Why does a Time Magazine survey state only 85% of Americans think global warming is happening?The other 15 percent work for the oil industry!