Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Cleaner Air, Longer Lives

If you’re not informed you may think the air quality in the United States is getting worse, especially in most major cities. What you may not be aware of is the ‘Clean Air Act’ that was passed by Congress in 1970. The Clean Air Act empowered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enforce standards nationwide to protect people from pollutants, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter.

The Clean Air Act is the reason for scrubbers at new factories, catalytic converters on cars, and other things that have been working over the last 39 years to improve the overall air quality in the United States. Has it been working, and is the air quality improving? According to a new study, not only is the air quality improving, but it may be impacting the increase in life expectancy in the United States as well.

A federally funded study, partially funded also by the EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tracked pollution levels in 51 United States cities. After tracking these pollution levels, they compared the results to census data on life expectancies. They found that particulate matter reduced from 21 micrograms per cubic meter of air to only 14 milligrams in the cities studied.

Americans are living 2.72 years longer, according to a census taken from 1978 to 2001. As air pollution decreased, life expectancy increased. While life expectancy is increasing due to a decline in deaths from major diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, as well as falling mortality rates from things such as accidents, researchers are saying that nearly 5 months of that increase is due to cleaner air.

Pollution is definitely decreasing, with the EPA reporting that average particulate levels have dropped nearly 11 percent over the last nine years. Buffalo, N.Y., and Pittsburgh were the cities that showed the most progress in clean air, while St. Louis, Indianapolis, and Los Angeles were among the cities that showed a gain in life expectancy.

This study is one of the only studies that shows a direct correlation between the health benefits of less air pollution and life expectancy. For the first time, in 2008 the United States life expectancy exceeded 78 years.

Return to the Social Security Disability SSI Benefits Blog

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