A major shift to electric vehicles and a clean power grid in the United States could save tens of thousands of lives over the next few decades, according to a new report by the American Lung Association.
Reducing pollution from tailpipes and power plants would prevent up to 110,000 premature deaths by 2050, according to the report. It would also prevent 2.78 million asthma attacks and 13.4 million lost working days. In total, this would represent $1.2 trillion in public health benefits.
This assumes that all new passenger cars sold in the United States are electric vehicles by 2035 and that all new heavy-duty vehicles sold are electric by 2040. In addition, these vehicles should be powered by a fossil fuel-free grid. . But replacing the vast majority of the country’s estimated 280 million cars and trucks with electric vehicles in such a short time remains virtually impossible. A little bit less 3 percent of new vehicles purchased in the United States in 2021 are electric, despite their growing popularity.
Either way, health advocates say a safe environment shouldn’t be negotiable. “I can advise [my patients] limit their time spent outdoors to limit the pollution they breathe; I can’t make sure they have clean, healthy air to breathe — and that’s incredibly frustrating for me,” Afif El-Hasan, a pediatrician and American Lung Association volunteer, said during a call for the press. “Every child should have the right to play and develop in a safe place. This should never be up for debate.
According to the American Lung Association, more than four out of 10 Americans live in a place with unhealthy air pollution. Breathing in this pollution has been linked to cancer, heart attacks, strokes and lung disease. This can lead to impaired lung development in children, which can then affect them throughout their lives. Americans of color are also disproportionately burdened by air pollution, according to the American Lung Association; they are three times more likely to breathe in the worst air pollution than white Americans.
For its new report, the American Lung Association examined how phasing out the burning of fossil fuels in the transportation and energy sectors would limit key pollutants. This includes soot, nitrogen oxides and smog-forming volatile organic compounds, as well as sulfur dioxide from exhaust pipes and chimneys.
The authors of the report also studied another type of pollution that often goes unnoticed and for which electric vehicles are still responsible: non-polluting emissions. This includes particles that enter the air from road and vehicle wear, for example tires or brake pads. The persistence of this type of pollution shows why best public transport and more walkable cities – to reduce reliance on driving – are also important for a healthier future.
The report also highlights the health benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change. A global warming affects air quality by accelerating the chemical reaction that produces smog and by exacerbating the pollution caused by forest fires. E-bikes, scooters and other light-duty electric vehicles can also significantly reduce greenhouse gas pollution when they replace cars, according to a recent industry-commissioned study. report produced by the German Aerospace Center.
In the United States, President Joe Biden has set a goal to have half of all new cars sold in the United States by 2030 be electric or hybrid vehicles. Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency propose new regulations aimed specifically at reducing pollution from trucks. The Biden Administration climate goals also include achieving a clean energy sector by 2035. Phasing out fossil fuels from the electric grid is key to cleaning up transportation, the American Lung Association report points out. And while many of these efforts remain aspirational for the future, pollution continues to take a toll on people’s health today.