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Americans are Breathing Easier and Living Longer

A new study by Brigham Young University and the Harvard School of Public Health published in the January 22, 2009 New England Journal of Medicine examined fine particulate air pollution in 51 U.S. cities during the 1980s and 1990s and discovered that cleaner air over the last two decades has added five months to the average life expectancy in the United States. On average, predicted lifespan increased most dramatically in cities where air quality also increased, with reduction in air pollution accounting for as much as 15% of the overall increase in life expectancy in areas studied.

Research led by C. Arden Pope, a Brigham Young epidemiologist, studied the period from the late 1970s through the early 1980s and compared it with information from the late 1990s to early 2000s. During this period, substantial efforts were made to reduce particulate pollution and to improve air quality in America. Fine-particulate air pollution results from the combustion of gasoline, diesel, and coal, as well as other sources. These particles have been implicated in cardiovascular and cardiopulmonary diseases. The study accounted for variables such as smoking habits, income, education, and migration.

These findings reinforce earlier international studies that found reductions of life expectancy associated with increased particulate matter in The Netherlands, Finland, and Canada.

This indicates our efforts to control air pollution are paying off, with better health and longer lives for most Americans.

Fine-Particulate Air Pollution and Life Expectancy in the United States

Evaluating the Effects of Ambient Air Pollution on Life Expectancy

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