Harvard Follow-up Study Finds Link between Soot Reduction and Increased Life Expectancy

When cities reduce soot in the air, people live longer, according to a follow-up study by the Harvard School of Public Health in the March issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

The current study is a follow-up to the original Harvard Six Cities Study (1979-1989) and the first follow-up study (1990-1998) and used the data from those studies to confirm that the greatest drops in mortality rates appeared in cities with the greatest reduction in “fine particulate air pollution” (soot) in their air.

According to the study authors, once the data was adjusted to reflect the general increase in life expectancy during the two previous study periods, it appears that the decreased death rate attributable to the improved air quality translates into about 75,000 lives saved each year in the U.S. alone.

The original studies found a strong, positive correlation between mortality rates and air pollution levels. The follow-up study supports the recommendation by the EPA’s “external science advisers” that the agency sponsor the imposition of new air quality standards that would reduce the acceptable levels of fine particle air pollution.

A public comment period on the proposals will end on April 17, 2006. The EPA is expected to make a final ruling on the proposal sometime in September.

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