“What’s novel about this study is that we use seven different PM2.5 exposure estimates to analyze the long-term change in mortality burden, and they all show a consistent decrease in mortality burden,” said Xiaomeng Jin, the Lamont researcher who led the study.
The study considered four ailments triggered by long-term exposure to fine particulate matter: chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, ischemic heart disease, lung cancer, and cerebrovascular and ischemic stroke.
The study provides evidence that emission controls on air pollutants, initiated by the Clean Air Act of 1970—and expanded under amendments passed in 1990 that required a review of scientific evidence on which standards are set and implemented—have improved public health across New York State, said the researchers.
“Those reviews have sometimes resulted in stricter standards being set, which in turn set in motion the process of emission controls to meet those standards,” said Lamont atmospheric chemist and co-author of the study Arlene Fiore.
Among the other factors that have helped clear the air: continued progress in cleaner vehicles; additional programs to reduce air pollution, including programs targeting diesel fuel, a source of sulfur dioxide; and the reduction of high sulfur dioxide-emitting coal-burning power plants.
Fiore said this study is a key step to documenting the health benefits from cleaner air.