MIT Research Says Air Pollution Causes 200,000 Premature Deaths a Year

Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Los Angeles (photo: Ben Amstutz, Flickr)

Hundreds of thousands of Americans each year are having their lives cut short by as much as a decade because of air pollution, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) claim.


After examining ground-level emissions from factories, automobiles, trains, homes and other sources in 2005, MIT’s Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment concluded that such air pollution causes about 200,000 premature deaths annually in the United States.


The biggest culprit, experts say, are cars and other forms of road transportation. Vehicles were found to cause 53,000 early fatalities, followed by power plants with 52,000.


Steven Barrett, an MIT assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics who took part in the study, said a premature death was defined as one occurring about 10 years earlier due to exposure to air pollution than might otherwise happen.


“In the past five to 10 years, the evidence linking air-pollution exposure to risk of early death has really solidified and gained scientific and political traction,” Barrett said in an article published by the lab. “There’s a realization that air pollution is a major problem in any city, and there’s a desire to do something about it.”


Barrett and his colleagues found that on a state level, California experiences the highest number of premature air-pollution-related fatalities (about 21,000) each year.


Among American cities, Baltimore was deemed to have the highest emissions-related mortality rate (130 out of every 100,000 residents).

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Air Pollution Causes 200,000 Early Deaths Each Year in the U.S. (Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment)

MIT Study: Vehicle Emissions Cause 200,000 US Deaths per Year (by Jo Borrás, Gas2)

Air Pollution and Early Deaths in the United States. Part I: Quantifying the Impact of Major Sectors in 2005 (by Fabio Caiazzo, Akshay Ashok, Ian A. Waitz, Steve H.L. Yim and Steven R.H. Barrett, Atmospheric Environment)


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