Air pollution control saved 160,000 lives

The benefits of reducing fine particle and ground-level ozone pollution under the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments will reach approximately US$2 trillion in 2020 while saving 230,000 people from early death in that year alone, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). About 85 per cent of the economic benefits are attributable to reductions in premature mortality associated with reductions in ambient particulate matter.

The new EPA report, “The Benefits and Costs of the Clean Air Act from 1990 to 2020,” shows that the benefits of avoiding early death, preventing heart attacks and asthma attacks, and reducing the number of sick days for employees far exceed the costs of implementing clean air protection measures. These benefits lead to a more productive workforce, and enable consumers and businesses to spend less on health care – all of which help strengthen the economy, the agency concludes.

In the year 2010, the reductions in fine particle and ozone pollution from the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments prevented more than:

  • 160,000 cases of premature mortality
  • 130,000 heart attacks
  • 13 million lost work days
  • 1.7 million asthma attacks

In 2020, the study projects benefits are projected to prevent more than:

  • 230,000 cases of premature mortality
  • 200,000 heart attacks
  • 17 million lost work days
  • 2.4 million asthma attacks

It should be noted that this report estimates only the benefits from the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments. The 1990 Clean Air Act amendments built on the progress made in improving the nation’s air quality through the Clean Air Act of 1970 and its 1977 amendments. The overall benefits of the Clean Air Act exceed the benefits estimated in this report, with millions of lives saved since 1970.

The report is the third in a series of EPA studies required under the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments that estimate the benefits and costs of the act. These reports are intended to provide Congress and the public with comprehensive, up-to-date, peer-reviewed information on the Clean Air Act’s social benefits and costs, including improvements in human health, welfare, and ecological resources, as well as the impact of the act’s provisions on the US economy.

Source: US EPA press release, 1 March 2011.

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