Tags: Air | Pollution | Cleanup | US

Air Cleanup Gains Steam, Seen Saving US Billions

By John Morgan   |   Sunday, 28 Apr 2013 12:51 PM

Air pollution from soot and smog in the United States is improving, and the savings in health costs alone are adding up to billions of dollars, according to government estimates.

The American Lung Association (ALA) released its annual national study of air pollution and concluded there has been significant progress in reduction of both particle pollution (soot) and ozone pollution (smog) in recent years.

“We are happy to report that the state of our air is much cleaner today than when we started the ‘State of the Air’ report 14 years ago,” said Harold Wimmer, ALA’s national president and CEO. “Even in parts of the country that experienced increases in unhealthy days of high ozone and short-term particle pollution, they still have better air quality compared to a decade ago.”

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CNN Money reported that the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) estimated the health savings from cleaner air will total $2 trillion annually by 2020 and cost only $65 billion to implement.

The ALA study said the EPA estimated that further reducing just ozone levels alone would yield $35 billion to $100 billion in health and economic benefits during that time span.

However, the study concluded about 142 million Americans – or 42 percent of the population – still live in areas that have unhealthy levels of at least one form of air pollution from among short-term and year-round particle pollution and ozone.

“All three kill people and cause harm to those with respiratory problems,” Janice Nolen, the “State of the Air” lead author, told CNN. “Particle pollution is more lethal, but ozone is dangerous, too. Both need to be cleaned up.”

Wimmer said the Clean Air Act, which has been expanded over time since its inception in 1963, has had a considerable positive impact on the nation’s air pollution levels.

California fared the worst in the latest ALA rankings. It had 8 of the 10 cities with the most year-round particle pollution, and 7 of the 10 cities with the most year-round ozone pollution.

Huffington Post Green reported California’s weather, combined with agricultural processes and the emissions from vehicles and machines needed to move goods, create an air pollution challenge for the state.

Power Engineering, a trade publication, cited a new academic study that confirmed tighter EPA air standards are forcing utilities to shift from coal to cleaner-burning natural gas.

The Duke University report said burning coal is generally cheaper than natural gas at the moment, but that the cost of upgrading coal power plans to meet EPA standards will make natural gas power plants competitive in price, Power Engineering reported.

However, the net effect of utilities’ shift from coal to natural gas on global air pollution is uncertain, because coal not consumed in the U.S. now is being exported to Europe and Asia, the Duke study said.

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