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New study finds declines in vehicle emissions have resulted in fewer deaths

Posted at 2:46 PM, Dec 14, 2021

CLEVELAND — A new study shows that thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars have been saved in the United States from recent reductions in emissions from vehicles.

Harvard University researchers who study the environment and public health examined the impact of declines in emissions from vehicles over a decade. They found deaths dropped from 27,700 in 2008 to 19,800 in 2017, and that the economic benefits of the reduction in emissions totaled $270 billion.

The study, published by the National Academy of Sciences, concluded that if vehicles continued to emit air pollution at 2008 levels throughout the time period, the death total in 2017 would have been 2.4 times higher.

Light-duty vehicles such as cars, pickup trucks and SUVs made up a major portion of the health burden reduced by tougher regulations on fossil fuel companies and vehicle manufacturers, according to the study.

Strict policies on emissions have driven down transportation emissions over the last decade, but the researchers found that these benefits were limited by an increasing and aging population, and by drivers buying larger cars and driving more.

Cars equipped with catalytic converters and diesel particulate filters are reducing the number of pollutants in the environment but aren’t doing anything to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide.

Experts are cautioning that programs like Ohio’s E-Check system that created the health benefits may not be as effective in the future as drivers continue to hit the road more and prefer to purchase larger vehicles.

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