Clean air

The American Lung Association released its "Living and Breathing in California: Health Benefits of Clean Air Programs" report to illustrate the potential for major health benefits from recently approved clean air policies in California.

California has the worst air pollution challenges in the United States and is home to several of the most polluted cities in the nation. Policies designed to help the Golden State attain health-protective clean air and climate standards will cumulatively provide $200 billion in public health benefits while saving over 20,000 lives over the coming decades. This report is based on a review of California Air Resources Board (CARB) analyses of eleven recently approved regulations related to on-road passenger vehicles and trucks as well as off-road equipment like locomotives, leaf blowers and harbor craft. Each policy is projected to deliver significant health protections, cut climate pollution and advances efforts to deliver clean air to California's most impacted communities.

"There is no question that California's clean air programs are designed to save lives," says Mariela Ruacho, senior clean air advocacy manager for the American Lung Association, "but there is a lot of work ahead if California's programs are going to truly deliver real-world health protections. California's budget must continue to reflect lifesaving investments in clean air, zero-emission transportation infrastructure and strong enforcement programs to meet the mark."

Robust implementation of programs to curb harmful pollution will greatly benefit the health of those in California, especially those with lower incomes and people of color who often face disproportionate pollution burdens. Notably, the policies designed to transition new on-road vehicle sales to zero-emissions or ensure that vehicles are meeting their clean air requirements add up to an estimated $150 billion in health benefits and are projected to save 15,000 lives by cutting pollution. Similarly, policies crafted to clean up sources of off-road pollution including leaf blowers, locomotive operations, ferries and other commercial harbor craft are estimated to provide $54 billion in health benefits and save over 5,400 lives. In addition to these benefits, there are significant cancer risk reductions projected in environmental justice communities.

"California has made great strides in cleaning the air, but much more must be done," says Dr. Afif El-Hasan, volunteer pediatrician with the American Lung Association. "Especially for kids growing up in the shadow of clouds of diesel exhaust, California must continue to invest in clean air."

California's policies are developed through years of public process and debate, and need ongoing attention to ensure they deliver healthier air. Legislative actions to boost state investments in equitable clean air programs must be maintained while regulatory agencies must coordinate to ensure full implementation delivers relief. In addition, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must act swiftly to consider and approve pending and future Clean Air Act waivers to allow implementation of many of the programs included in this report.

"Adoption and successful implementation are two different animals," says Will Barrett, national senior director of Clean Air Advocacy with the American Lung Association. "The governor, legislature and federal partners must act to ensure the promise of clean air becomes a reality. CARB, EPA and our local air districts must establish standards to protect public health and address health disparities while investing in programs to accelerate pollution clean up."  

Check out the complete report here.