Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

20,000 people die in the US each year from air pollution related deseases

Adelina Marini, October 21, 2009

According to a report by the National Academy of Science of the US, published on Monday and quoted by the New York Times, nearly 20,000 die annually from complications, caused by air pollution. The most frequent reasons for premature death are small soot particles, which cause lung damage, nitrogen oxides, which contribute to smog, and sulfur dioxide, which causes acid rain.

The authors of the report also found out that burning fossil fuels costs the United States about $120 billion a year in health costs. The damages are caused almost equally by coal and oil. The idea of the report, ordered by the Congress is to measure the costs not incorporated into the price of a kilowatt-hour or a gallon of gasoline or diesel fuel. The estimates by the academy do not include damages from global warming, which has been linked to the gases produced by burning fossil fuels. The reason is that it is very difficult to estimate such damages in a certain period of time.

As the New York Times writes, the report lends support to arguments that society should pay extra for energy from renewables, because their indirect costs are extremely small. The scientists also say that bio fuel from corn, for example was slightly worse than gasoline in its environmental impact.

In Bulgaria such a report has never been ordered nor prepared, shows the research of euinside. Here the Regional Inspections for Protection and Control of Public Health (RIPCPH) do daily measurements of the air in different regions of the country. These measurements are being sent to the Executive Agency for Protection of the Environment. When a certain pollutant agent crosses over a boundary, defined by the World Health Organisation and the EU legislation, then additional researches are being held to see what is the impact on public health in a specific region.

In the capital Sofia such research was prepared for the last time in the beginning of the 90ies. But since then the industrial and automobile landscape in Sofia has changed dramatically. The National Centre for Protection of Public Health and the city RIPCPH explained to euinside that such researches are very hard to do, the teams are not enough and for now the daily monitoring of the air does not imply additional researches to be made to relate a certain air pollutant to the increase of a certain type of diseases.