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Study finds slightly tighter air quality regulations could save lives in Detroit and elsewhere

Aug 19, 2016

A new study finds reducing air pollution by just a little more would save about 9,000 lives each year in the United States.

Detroit is one of the cities the study finds could benefit the most from slightly tighter air pollution regulations. 

Kevin Cromar is the lead author of the study. He's an assistant professor at the New York University School of Medicine.

Cromar told us the study looked at the health impacts of air pollution due to ozone and particulate matter. 

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He explained that these types of pollution can increase the risk of cardiovascular and respiratory health problems, and can be so severe that they increase the risk of premature death. 

"These problems are unique in each city, and so the solutions to it will actually need to be city-driven and unique as well."

Outside of mortality, the study showed that ozone and particulate matter pollution increase the frequency of hospital admissions, emergency room visits, and heart attacks. 

Finally, these pollutants can make people sick, preventing them from going to work or school, Cromar said.

According to Cromar, this type of air pollution comes from a wide variety of sources, and that every area is a little different. 

"These problems are unique in each city, and so the solutions to it will actually need to be city-driven and unique as well," he said.

The Detroit Metro area landed 16th on the list of cities that could benefit from tighter air pollution regulations. In Detroit and elsewhere, Cromar said that even making a small improvement in particle pollution levels could have a "dramatic impact on public health."

"We hope that the public and air quality managers can work together to make plans that best suit both the needs and the preferences of the local communities they serve."

"The level recommended is 11. Detroit was somewhere around 11.3, and that small difference was  approximately 21 additional deaths per year," he said.

"This report, we hope, will be a reliable source of information that can inform the ongoing discussions on what cities should do," he said. "Every city's a little bit different ... and also the preferences between cities are different. We hope that the public and air quality managers can work together to make plans that best suit both the needs and the preferences of the local communities they serve."

You can learn more about the air quality where you live by visiting healthoftheair.org.

Cromar shares more of the study's findings and recommendations in our conversation above.

GUEST

Kevin Cromar is an assistant professor in the departments of Population Health and Environmental Medicine at the NYU School of Medicine.