Air pollution causing thousands of deaths in Massachusetts

Air pollution is responsible for an estimated 2,780 deaths a year in Massachusetts, and for measurable cognitive loss in children exposed to fine particulate pollutants in the air they breathe, according to new research.

The study, conducted by researchers at Boston College and supported by the Barr Foundation, claims to be the first to examine the public health consequences of air pollution in Massachusetts on a town-by-town basis.

The study found air-pollution-related disease, death and IQ loss occur in every city and town regardless of demographics or income level – although rates were highest in the most economically disadvantaged and socially underserved cities and towns.

The study found that of the 2,780 deaths attributable to air pollution in Massachusetts in 2019, at least 2,185 were due to lung cancer 1,677 to heart disease, 343 to chronic lung disease, and 200 to stroke. 

aerial view of high-rise buildings covered with smoke

The researchers estimate the cumulative impact on childhood cognitive development in Massachusetts in 2019 was a loss of more than two IQ points for the average child, according to the report, published in the journal Environmental Health.

‘We are talking about the impacts of air pollution at a very local level in Massachusetts – not just statewide,’ said lead author Philip J. Landrigan. ‘This report gives the people in every city and town the opportunity to see for themselves the quality of the air they and their families are breathing and the dangerous health implications for both adults and children as a consequence of air pollution.’

‘All of these health effects occurred at pollution levels below current EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] standards,’ Landrigan added. ‘Clearly, current EPA air pollution standards are not adequately protecting public health.’

Air pollution in the US has declined 70% since the passage of the Clean Air Act in the 1970s, but unclean air at current levels still poses health hazards to both healthy individuals and those with other ailments or illnesses.

‘Air pollution is killing 2,780 people in Massachusetts each year, nearly five percent of all deaths in the state, and that is a big deal. Air pollution is something we can fix. We know the steps that need to be taken to reduce fatalities and the impact on our children and grandchildren. Now citizens in every city and town across the Commonwealth need to urge our elected officials to take those necessary steps,’ said Landrigan.

The report recommended measures including more use of electric vehicles and green energy by the public sector, revised building codes, and incentives to transition to renewables.

Photo by Photoholgic


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2 years ago

Doesn’t say what kind of air pollution the study was about. We need a link to the scientific paper please. Where Dr Landrigan says ‘ Air pollution is something we can fix ‘ I am not convinced but we have to try to bring the levels down at least. If so many illnesses and early deaths in Massachusetts are from air pollution, how do other cities compare? Not clear what is meant by renewables. If they mean burning more biomass that might be counterproductive.Interesting report thank you.

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