MIT Emissions Study: 200,000 Early Deaths A Year In US From Air Pollution

An MIT emissions study released on Thursday said that air pollution causes some 200,000 early deaths a year in the United States. And by early, they do mean early. Victims of the dirty air die about a decade sooner than they would have.

The shocking findings from MIT’s Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment have been published in the science journal Atmospheric Environment.

The team examined air pollution from a variety of sources including auto exhaust, industrial smokestacks, electrical generation, and several more. You can see some of the maps that the MIT researchers created at the bottom of this post.

Here are some key findings from the MIT emissions study. It’s worth noting that the original measurements were taken in 2005. Today’s numbers may vary as the economy recovers.

  • Road traffic is the biggest cause of air pollution early deaths. 53,000 Americans a year die too soon because of emissions from road vehicles.
  • The second most important source of killer emissions was power generation. Those pollutants kill around 52,000 people a year.
  • Air pollution deaths from rail transportation appeared to be relatively trivial.
  • However, emissions from marine transportation hit California with its long coastline relatively hard, resulting in an estimated 3,500 early deaths.
  • California is the hardest-hit state. There are 21,000 early deaths there a year from emissions.
  • However, it’s the east coast city of Baltimore, Maryland that is the hardest-hit city. 130 out of every 100,000 residents will die each year as a result of air poluttion.

200,000 people dead a decade too soon every single year is clearly a huge public health problem. The MIT emissions study team suggested that Americans could tackle the problem by focusing on mitigating “black carbon emissions from road transportation and sulfur dioxide emissions from power generation.”

MIT emissions study graphic
Graphic: Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment via MIT News

[oil refinery photo by Spirit of America via Shutterstock]