Pollution Kills 60,000 Yearly, Study Says

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Associated Press

Exposure to air pollution in U.S. cities accounts for 60,000 deaths annually and increases the risk of death among the elderly and people with lung and heart diseases, researchers said Sunday.

“If we as a nation can focus on reducing emissions, we can save more lives and taxpayers’ money than with any other single effort to reduce toxic exposure in the environment,” said Dr. Douglas Dockery, associate professor of environmental epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Dockery, with Dr. Joel Schwartz of the Environmental Protection Agency, conducted a study of air pollution in Philadelphia and the causes of death from 1973 to 1980. Their results were presented here Sunday at the 1991 International Conference of the American Lung Assn.


The estimated 60,000 deaths attributed to air pollution account for 3% of deaths nationwide. Those related to air pollution occurred at levels of total suspended particulates below clean air standards set by the EPA, the researchers said.

Mortality increased by 7% with each 100 micrograms-per-cubic-meter increase in total suspended particulates, and by 5% with each 100-microgram increase in sulfur dioxide, the study found.

The study revealed that the impact of an increase in particulate concentrations was about three times as great in persons over 65 as in those under 65.

For people dying from asthma, bronchitis or chronic obstructive lung disease, the death rate was triple the increase in deaths from all causes.