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Sooty California Air Takes 10 Years Off of Life

Posted by Jane Akre
Friday, May 23, 2008 11:48 AM EST
Category: On The Road, Major Medical, Protecting Your Family, In The Workplace
Tags: Air Pollution, Heart Disease, Smog, Lung Disease

California smog costs the state $70 billion and thousands of lives each year a report says.  


IMAGE SOURCE : WikiMedia Commons/ Pasadena Highway, Los Angeles, 2007/ author: Aliazimi 


Up to 24,000 deaths a year among Californians are linked to air pollution, new research finds.   That is triple the previous estimate and may be shaving off up to 10 years of life of state residents.

Those revealing numbers come from the California Air Resources Board that issued a draft report Thursday on premature deaths associated with dangerous air particles.  

Based on 60 studies worldwide, researchers say,  “Our report concludes these particles are 70 percent more dangerous than previously thought, based on several major studies that have occurred in the last five years,” says Bart Croes, chief researcher for the board.  

Microscopic air pollution comes from power plants, cars, trucks and wood burning.  The microscopic particles can sink deeply into the lungs where they do their damage. The particles can be as small as one-thirtieth the width of a strand of hair. 

Heart attacks, strokes and other diseases are increasing as the amount of particulate matter in the air increases.

The studies include one from the University of Southern California which tracked 23,000 people in Los Angeles. Another study by the American Cancer Society monitored the health of 300,000 across the country.

Both found that heart attack rates and strokes as well as the number of hospitalizations, emergency visits and missed school days increased in the presence of higher amounts of particles of metal or dust. 

Most of the premature deaths occur in areas around the San Francisco Bay, Los Angeles and the San Joaquin Valley. 

The cost in premature death and illnesses is estimated to be $70 billion a year in California.

California average small particle concentration is about 14 micrograms per cubic meter of air.  The San Francisco Bay’s average is 10.69.  A more ideal level is seven micrograms.

Tim Carmichael, a senior policy director for the Coalition for Clean Air, a citizens group, tells the Los Angeles Times, “These numbers are shocking, they’re incredible.” 

The good news is even if the levels of pollution are cut temporarily, the reduction death rates are immediate. Researchers note that happened in Dublin, Ireland when it imposed a coal ban and in Hong Kong when it reduced sulfur dioxide.

California lawmakers are working on reducing the maximum permissible levels of soot, which at 12 micrograms of soot per cubic meter, is the lowest in the nation. The federal standard is higher at 15.  

California has made improvements in particulate pollution since the late ‘80s when levels were around 25 micrograms per cubic meter.  

What can citizens do? The results of the board will be presented and discussed in Fresno on Friday.  Regulations are in the process of being drafted including a requirement for cleaner heavy-duty trucks.  The central valley citizens group wants a ban on industrial equipment on bad air days and tougher controls on boilers and crop drying equipment.  

The board added more restrictions on wood burning and required employers to start carpools.  Later this year the board will address new rules on reducing particulate soot coming from private truck fleets.

Earlier this month The American Lung Association in its “State of the Air” report said Pittsburgh surpassed Los Angeles in short-term particle pollution which combines ash, soot, chemicals, metals, diesel and aerosols as well as smog or ozone. #

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