Scientists have for years used health statistics to justify tighter air pollution regulations. Smoggy, sooty air shortens people's lives, costs the U.S. health care system big bucks, and so cutting air pollution makes sense from both a public health, and public finance perspective.
Today, a new study is making news for looking at the same issue in a new way: Americans are living about five months longer thanks to cleaner air, according to a Brigham Young University study detailed in USA Today, the Los Angeles Times and other publications.
Overall, life expectancy in the cities studies is up 2.7 years, but scientists attributed about five months of that increase to cleaner air. An even bigger factor was the reduction in cigarette smoking.
Ozone, which forms from smokestack and tailpipe pollutants reacting in heat and sunlight, is a major component of smog, and damages lung tissues. Soot -- also known as fine particulates -- causes both lung and heart damage. Some studies also have suggested a link between these pollutants and wider range of illnesses, from cancer to diabetes.
The findings are particularly significant in light of ongoing controversy about increased regulations of air pollutants. Most recently, the agriculture industry has fought new Environmental Protection Agency proposals to regulate air pollution from big livestock holding pens, which kick up dust, nitrates and other pollutants.
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.