Local pollution sources have tremendous impact on air quality in Delhi
The study shows that of the air pollutants produced in one state, over 50 percent is carried through the air into other states. Thus, each state affects the quality of health of people living in other states and contributes to their risk of premature death. And it's not just states across the immediate border that are affected but even those farther away. Different emissions, says Barrett, travel different distances, but some effect states more than a thousand miles away from the state of origin.
The highest risk of death due to emissions occur as a result of electric power generation. In 2005, sulfur dioxide emissions from power plant chimneys caused deaths in other states than the one in which the plant was located in 3 of 4 cases. However, since 2005 the number of early deaths due to air pollution has shown a significant downturn and was almost a third less in 2018. In concrete terms, this means about 30,000 people didn't die earlier than expected because of air pollution.
Moreover, the percentage of deaths due to out-of-state emissions is also declining, from about 53 percent in 2005 to about 41 percent in 2018. The reason may be stricter regulation of emissions from electric power plants. For instance, the Clean Air Act is a regulation passed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is a chief contributor to reducing emissions from this sector, among other laws. Barrett says, "Regulators in the U.S. have done a pretty good job of hitting the most important thing first, which is power generation, by reducing sulfur dioxide emissions drastically, and there's been a huge improvement, as we see in the results."
However, emissions from other sources are now on the rise, wafting across state lines to cause deaths in other locations. According to Barrett, vehicles, industrial emissions, and residential emissions are now areas of concern.
Power plants send air pollutants high into the air so that these have the most extended range. Polluting emissions from houses and shops have a limited range, in contrast, because their chemicals react rapidly with gases in the air.
The states that caused a higher number of deaths in other states compared to the negative impact of other states on their population include North Dakota and Wyoming, the northern states of the Midwest. These states have a relatively lower number of people living in them, and because winds sweep away their emissions to other states.
On the other hand, net importer states include the East Coast states because of the winds traveling east, bringing emissions from other states to them. In particular, New York imports air pollution responsible for 60 percent of her deaths due to this cause. The implications
Barrett says their team has set up a massive database for use by people concerned with public health. He concludes, "We think there are a lot of things that policymakers can dig into, to chart a path to saving the most lives." Journal reference:
Dedoussi, I.C., Eastham, S.D., Monier, E. et al. Premature mortality related to United States cross-state air pollution. Nature 578, 261–265 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-1983-8
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