Nearly 20,000 U.S. Deaths Caused by Air Pollution Each Year

cars travel down the road in a sea of smog


Biden Administration Urged to Improve Air Quality Standards

“Mr. President, Americans are depending on your administration to protect their right to clean air and healthy communities,” said more than 160 public health and climate activists acting as the Climate Action Campaign in a recent letter to the President. The group urged the Biden administration for change in air pollution regulations and enforcement, outlining their growing concerns surrounding air particulates called PM 2.5 and their effect on our air quality.

The group urges the administration to reduce the current standard of particulate matter by 25%, from 12 mcg/cm to 8 mcg/cm of air.

An estimated 19,600 deaths per year are connected with the inhalation of particulate matter, claims a study by the Environmental Defense Fund. These deaths could be avoided by tighter regulations regarding soot pollution in our air.

Climate Action Campaign has said that tightening soot regulations is but one of their objectives to half all emissions by the end of the decade. Stating quite obviously that our air quality and their mission “is essential to all Americans, to our health, to the health of our planet and to the U.S. role in the world when it comes to climate.” The organization believes that regulation should go hand in hand with science and estimates that today’s regulations are 10 years behind.

“People need and deserve to know if their air is safe to breathe.” – The Climate Action Campaign

Other than carbon dioxide, particulate matters called PM 2.5 are set free into our air by the burning of fossil fuels. The deadly particles, smaller than a grain of sand, enter our lungs, and through that our blood streams. This has been shown to lead to coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath, as well as more serious illnesses like lung cancer, stroke, cardiac arrests, asthma and premature births.

Research on soot exposures effect on lifespan is most prominent in China, and it’s pretty interesting. In the 1950s, the Chinese Communist Party wanted to deliver free coal heating to all citizens. They didn’t have enough resources, so only those living north of the Huai River received free coal. This meant that those living north of the river were also more likely to be exposed to particulate matter.

Research done today has uncovered that those who received free coal now have a lifespan five years less than those south of the river and suffer far more particulate-related diseases.

Countries like China, India and those in Southeast Asia are experiencing the day-to-day destruction of particulate matter already, and the U.S. may be heading that direction. The letter to Biden warns that “every additional day of delay means hazy skies and more toxic soot pollution in the lungs of our vulnerable children and seniors.

“We urge you to act as swiftly and boldly as possible. The eyes of our community, our nation and the world are upon you.”

“Why should the public care? Because particulate matter, PM pollution, soot, whatever you want to call it, it kills people. And it kills tens of thousands of people every year.” Paul Billings, Senior Vice President of Public Policy, The American Lung Association

The senior vice president of public policy for the American Lung Association, Paul Billings, has said that if the standards recommended in this letter are set into action, it will begin a series of acts promoting states to establish which communities are hit worst by the problem.

“Why should the public care?” he rhetorically asks. “Because particulate matter, PM pollution, soot, whatever you want to call it, it kills people. And it kills tens of thousands of people every year.”

The Biden administration is already taking steps towards tackling the pollution, and maybe this letter will accelerate it.

The EPA under Michael Regan is now reviewing air quality standards, and one of their scientific panels is showing serious support for the tightening of standards concerning the concentration of PM 2.5 in air.

Studies have also shown that people of poorer backgrounds and people of color are more likely to life in affected areas.

As Raul Garcia, of Earthjustice, says regarding the letter. “ We have to have urgency”