A recent conference at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC) entitled "BREATHE" outlined the high costs of air pollution alongside the tremendous benefits of reducing it. Some of these health costs have been evident for years, such as the expenses associated with increased asthma rates and respiratory illnesses. Others, however, were eye opening.
Scientist Antonella Zanobetti of Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health cited a study showing that "exposure to particles is more likely to lead to hospitalization for patients with Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease." A second study, of New Englanders over 65, "linked increased deaths even when particles are within federal standards."
While enforcing clean air standards can cost industry billions of dollars, the benefits, which include a decreased number of premature deaths and fewer work days lost to illness, have been calculated at $2 trillion, says Chris Timmins, a Duke University environmental economist, as reported in the Charlotte Observer below.
By Bruce Henderson I April 8, 2016
Recent findings underscore the cost of air pollution on human health, and the benefits of reducing it, researchers said Friday at the N.C. BREATHE conference in Charlotte.
While pollution is rarely a direct cause of death, it raises risks that can shave years off an individual’s life. One recent study placed air pollution as the fifth-highest risk factor globally, contributing to 5.5 million deaths in 2013.
The first BREATHE conference was held in Raleigh last year. It moved to UNC Charlotte Center City as UNCC’s “Keeping Watch” initiative focuses this year on air quality, said June Blotnick of Clean Air Carolina, one of the event’s sponsors.
Air pollutants come to life on the side of the UNCC Center City building each night through April 23. The “Particle Falls” animation measures fine airborne particles in real time and displays them in a stream of light.
Fine particles, which come from dust, motor vehicles or industries, are particularly lethal. One-thirtieth the width of a human hair, they work deeply into the lungs and were linked to 3.2 million deaths worldwide in 2010, said scientist Antonella Zanobetti of Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
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