• Tech Tech

New report finds staggering number of Americans face 'climate penalty' with concerning health implications: 'We're essentially adding back additional premature deaths'

The World Health Organization says that around 7 million people die prematurely due to air pollution.

The World Health Organization says that around seven million people die prematurely due to air pollution.

Photo Credit: iStock

A quarter of Americans are now exposed to unhealthy air in what experts are calling a "climate penalty." And it's just going to get worse.

What happened?

A report from the First Street Foundation found that one in four Americans faces unhealthy air, Grist reported. What's more, using climate and wildfire models, the group estimated that by mid-century, half of Americans will experience at least one day of risky unhealthy air. 

Jeremy Porter, head of climate implications research at the non-profit research group, told Grist that this increase in air pollution, fueled by a warming world, is rolling back decades of air quality improvements. 

That's because extreme heat has spiked the levels of ozone in the air (ground-level ozone is a harmful pollutant), while an increase in heat and droughts has simultaneously made wildfires worse, according to the New York Times.

Why is research concerning?

Pollution can cause a range of ailments. For instance, exposure to fine particulate matter due to sources like wildfires or vehicle exhaust can lead to ​​heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer. In fact, one study found that breathing in wildfire smoke, even if you are miles away from the source, can be equivalent to smoking nearly half a pack of cigarettes a day.

Ultimately, the World Health Organization says that around seven million people die prematurely due to air pollution — this works out to 13 people each minute, and children are most at risk. 

"We're essentially adding back additional premature deaths, adding back additional heart attacks," Porter said, per Grist. "We're losing productivity in the economic markets by additionally losing outdoor job work days."

What can I do about pollution?

To save ourselves from dangerous pollution levels, we must reduce our dependence on dirty energy, which is by far the biggest contributor to the warming of our planet as well as a source of health-threatening pollution. 

You can do your part by voting for pro-climate candidates. You can also green up the way you get around by walking, biking, and using public transportation when possible. 

If you're facing poor air quality where you live, you can protect yourself by staying inside and using a High-Efficiency Particulate Air filter. If you're dealing with wildfire smoke in particular, researchers suggest vacuuming, dusting, and mopping with a commercial, non-bleach solution to get rid of dangerous volatile organic compounds that may settle in your home.

Join our free newsletter for weekly updates on the coolest innovations improving our lives and saving our planet.

Cool Divider