What’s the impact of clean air on public health?

Air pollution is a major public health problem. The World Health Organization estimated it caused 4.2 million premature deaths globally in 2019 and gasoline-powered vehicles are an important contributor to the issue. Air pollution is particularly harmful to children, the elderly, and people with chronic health conditions. As electric cars do not produce any tailpipe emissions, they can play a key part in improving air quality significantly.

A recent report from the American Lung Association has revealed that if gas-guzzling vehicles were replaced by zero-emissions vehicles like electric cars, trucks, and SUVs in the US by 2035, the nation could witness a significant reduction in premature deaths. 

​​The Driving to Clean Air: Health Benefits of Zero-Emission Cars and Electricity report states that by 2050, there could be 89,300 fewer premature deaths and 2.2 million fewer asthma attacks, resulting in 10.7 million fewer lost workdays. And that’s not to mention the $978 billion of cumulative public health benefits delivered over the 27 years.  However, achieving these health benefits would not be achieved just by switching vehicles; it would also require a transition to clean non-combustion electricity sources such as wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, and nuclear power.

Report author William Barrett commented.“This transition to zero-emission technologies is critical as a whole but especially critical in making sure that we’re targeting policies and investments and incentive programs so that all communities can take advantage of these health benefits and more healthier transportation choices.”

Air quality could be improved tremendously across UAE cities by adopting clean mobility.

In the UAE, Mariam Al Mheiri, the UAE’s Minister of Climate Change and Environment, recently announced the launch of a pivotal study to delve into the ramifications of air quality on the nation’s public health. This initiative, a collaboration between the ministry and the Pure Health group, is set to shed light on the intricate relationship between air quality, life expectancy, and overall quality of life.

“By assessing the impact of air quality on health, we can make informed decisions that contribute to effective climate action, enhance community health and achieve comprehensive sustainability,” Ms Al Mheiri said.

As the UAE gears up to be the host of COP28 this November, and in alignment with the Year of Sustainability, this partnership with Pure Health underscores the nation’s commitment to fostering a sustainable future.

Ms Al Mheiri added that the study would support the country’s efforts to “achieve the perfect balance between economic and social development, including the health of community members”.

Farhan Malik, managing director and chief executive of Pure Health also commented: “Through research and assessing the impact of air quality on public health, we can work towards building a healthier and more resilient future for the people of the UAE.”

This World Meteorological Organization animation explains how air pollution is formed – by sources including gas-powered cars – and how air quality can then further deteriorate as a result of the weather.

How air pollution harms human health

Air pollution can harm human health in a number of ways. It can irritate the airways, making it difficult to breathe. Air pollution can also cause inflammation and damage to the lungs and other organs.

Specifically, air pollution can increase the risk of a number of conditions including lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pneumonia and bronchitis.  As we see from the WHO statistics, these can all result in increased numbers of premature deaths.

Children are particularly vulnerable to the health effects of air pollution. Their lungs are still developing, and they are more likely to breathe more deeply and rapidly through their mouths, which can expose them to more pollutants.

How EVs can improve air quality and human health

EVs can help to improve air quality and human health in a number of ways. 

Because they do not produce any tailpipe emissions, no dangerous pollutants such as fine particulate matter (known as PM2.5) enter the atmosphere. 

They also don’t produce any direct greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change. Climate change is an equally huge public health threat, causing more extreme weather events, such as heat waves and floods, which can lead to injuries, the spread of disease and ultimately deaths.

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