Thousands of deaths could be avoided through the utilization of a tougher standard for air quality in America's metropolitan areas, a New York University/American Thoracic Society report concludes.

Health of the Air 2018
Health of the Air 2018

A new scientific report from the Marron Institute of Urban Management at NYU and the American Thoracic Society (ATS) finds that approximately 6,270 excess deaths are occurring each year in the United States as a result of air pollution concentrations exceeding ATS-recommended standards for fine particle pollution (PM2.5) and ozone.

This second annual "Health of the Air" report utilizes air pollution data from 2013-2015 and builds on the previously published 2016 report by also accounting for areas exceeding recommended levels of short-term PM2.5.

Health estimates in the report are made for counties with outdoor pollution levels that exceed ATS recommendations of 60 parts per billion for ozone, 11 micrograms per cubic meter of PM2.5 for the annual standard or 25 micrograms per cubic meter of PM2.5 for the short-term standard. These recommendations are more protective than current EPA standards. Approximately 82% of counties with validated air quality monitors exceed the ozone recommendation while 22% exceed at least one of the PM2.5 recommendations.

The results are described in the report published in the peer-reviewed journal Annals of the American Thoracic Study.

In addition to the 6,270 deaths estimates to occur each year in the United States from excess air pollution, higher-than-recommended concentrations of two major air pollutants—ambient ozone and PM2.5—also caused 15,500 major health events, or morbidities, and 12.7 million impacted days, or days when an individual was kept from work, school, or other activities due to health exacerbations.

Local estimates of the health impacts of air pollution are available through the accompanying online tool which can be found at HealthoftheAir.org.

Individual metro areas with the highest air pollution-related health impacts typically have large populations and relatively high concentrations of at least one of the two pollutants. Health estimates are not made for areas already meeting the ATS recommendations for air pollution, or for air pollution attributable to exceptional events such as wildfires, although it is expected that continued improvements in air quality in these areas would result in improved public health outcomes.

“Relatively small improvements in air quality will result in significant public health benefits in our local communities” said Marron Institute professor Kevin Cromar, lead author of the report.

To interview Professor Cromar, please contact NYU press officer Robert Polner at robert.polner@nyu.edu or 212.998.2337 (desk) / 646.522.3046 (mobile). To interview a local medical authority, contact ATS spokesman Dacia Morris at 212.315.8620 or dmorris@thoracic.org.

About The American Thoracic Society:
Founded in 1905, the American Thoracic Society is the world's leading medical association dedicated to advancing pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine. The Society’s 15,000 members prevent and fight respiratory disease around the globe through research, education, patient care and advocacy. The ATS publishes three journals, the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, the American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology and the Annals of the American Thoracic Society.

About the Marron Institute for Urban Management at New York University:
The Marron Institute conducts innovative applied research and works with cities to take on critical challenges of urban living including urban expansion, crime and justice, performance in the public sector, and environmental challenges. The Air Quality Program is led by Dr. Kevin Cromar and works to improve the health and welfare of urban residents by finding cost-effective ways to monitor and reduce air pollution. Find out more at: http://marroninstitute.nyu.edu/.