As per a new analysis of Environmental Protection Agency or EPA, the air quality in USA is worsening again even though it remained fairly good during a large part of this decade and this could be linked to nearly 10000 premature deaths and several billion dollars in damages. According to data between 2009 and 2016 the amount of fine particulate matter in the air that US citizens breathe fell by nearly 24 % but in the last couple of years concentration increased by 5.5 %. Last year the number of premature deaths associated with exposure to dangerous particles in air rose to an alarming level of 9700. According to a paper published this week in National Bureau of Economic Research done by two economists from Carnegie Mellon University these death represent $86 billion worth potential damages.
The link with early deaths and subsequent financial damages are alarming and though there are other detrimental effects due to decline in air quality they are not easy to calculate say the authors. Co-author of the report Prof Karen Clay said that people often overlook small issues like neighbor’s kid has asthma and it seems to be getting worse or an emphysema is suddenly having breathing problems. They point this problem to three contributing factors namely increase in wildfires across the country followed by heightened economic activity and lackadaisical enforcement of air regulations by EPA.
The particles that were researched on are tiny PM2.5 which float in the air and measure less than a fraction of the diameter of human hair. But despite their small size they are linked to cardiovascular and respiratory complications among vulnerable group consisting of elderly and children. These particular particles increase in the air due to use of natural gas for power generation and enhanced emissions from diesel vehicles. Researchers say that increase shift from coal based power plants to natural gas powered stations are adding to the damage.