Harder To Breathe: Air Quality has Worsened Since 2016


A CMU study finds recent increase in fine particulate matter are associated with more premature deaths in U.S.

In the United States, annual average levels of fine particulate matter — PM2.5, a measure of solid particles and liquid droplets that are 2.5 micrometers or smaller found in the air — declined 24% from 2009 to 2016, then increased 5% between 2016 to 2018.

A new study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) explored how the increase occurred by looking at economic activity, wildfires and enforcement of the Clean Air Act during this period. They found that the increase was associated with 9,700 additional premature deaths, and that these deaths represent damages of $89 billion. The study is published as an NBER working paper.

"The health implications of this increase are significant," noted Karen Clay, professor of economics and public policy at Carnegie Mellon's Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy, who led the study. "The number of deaths and the damages highlight the importance of air pollution as an important and timely policy issue."

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