Good New On U.S. Air Pollution
The world faces plenty of pressing and often discouraging problems. Rising energy costs, a rapidly growing global population, declining supplies of fresh water, endless wars and other conflicts...But there was at least one bright spot in the usual mix of concerns this fall: U.S. air quality is getting better.
Since 1990, air quality in the United States has improved enough that we’ve experienced a 35-percent reduction in deaths and disability from air pollution. Efforts to clean up out act, and improve our air have paid off in “measurable improvements in life expectancy and public health,” according to professor Arden Pope, of Brigham Young University.
The good news is contained in an important new report, published in the influential Journal of the American Medical Association last month. The finding means that Pope, who teaches at the University, has students who are breathing cleaner air now than when they took their first breaths in the early 1990s. Overall, for both sexes, life expectancy increased by three years, from 75.2 years in 1990, to 78.2 in 2010. A measure called “healthy life expectancy (HALE),” meaning years of life lived free of debilitating or disabling disease, also increased by nearly three years, from 65.8 to 68.1.
There were some storm clouds on the horizon, however. Preventable diseases, related to obesity, smoking, poor diet, high blood pressure and poorly-controlled blood sugar levels, among other conditions, are now the leading causes of disability, categorized as disability-adjusted life-years (DALY). So, while more people are living longer, some are living longer with serious disabilities due to illnesses that respond well to dietary and lifestyle interventions.
US Burden of Disease Collaborators. The state of US health, 1990-2010: burden of diseases, injuries, and risk factors. JAMA. 2013 Aug 14;310(6):591-608. doi: 10.1001/jama.2013.13805.