Shocking Study: Air Pollution Regulations Improve Public Health

by jim on October 22, 2012

One of the most basic arguments of industry opponents of clean air regulations is that they really don't do that much to improve public health. Given all the studies concluding that increases in air pollution lead to increases in illness and death, this argument is every bit as plausible as denying global warming at this point. But that doesn't stop industry and their supporters in elected office quit trying.

Out of New York and via the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology comes a three year study (2004-2006) that tracks decreases in ozone pollution to increases in public health, specifically fewer hospital admissions for respiratory problems. Overall, a decrease of about 9% in ozone pollution lead to an 11% decrease in hospitalizations. That's significant, bordering on one-to-one percentage point drop.

The study followed the progress of the EPA's NOx Budget Trading Program (BTP), a cap and trade system established for East Coat states to help them reduce their ozone, or smog pollution, that ran from 2004 to 2008, when it was replaced by the older, Bush-era version of the EPA's cross-stare pollution rules. It looked at all of New York in terms of eight regions throughout the state. Drops in smog averaged 9% but were substantially lower during the critical summer "ozone season."

According to the folks at the Environmental Health News:

"Regulations do work to lower pollution, which in turn can improve respiratory health.

Ozone levels decreased across the state of New York and hospital admissions for respiratory disease dipped in half of the regions studied after the EPA's regulatory program started. There were also notable decreases in hospital admissions for certain respiratory illnesses, most age groups and most health insurance groups.

The reduced admissions for those on public assistance suggests that low income residents may have benefited the most from air quality improvements. This would be an important achievement since this group often experiences the highest air pollution exposures.

These results are consistent with the limited number of other studies that compare pollution levels and health before and after required air pollution reductions."

It says more about the opposition to new regulations that we still have to have studies proving that less crap in the air means less illness and death. This has been a settled scientific fact for some time. But Industry pays big money for it to be a still-disputed political fact.

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