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California ARB estimates premature deaths linked to fine particulate pollution

1 September 2010

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) has released a report titled “Estimate of Premature Deaths Associated with Fine Particle Pollution in California Using the United States Environmental Protection Agency Methodology”. The report estimates that about 9,000 premature deaths each year can be associated with long-term public exposure to fine particulate matter air pollution (PM2.5) in California.

“There is no question particulate pollution is causing premature deaths here in California and nationwide,” said ARB Chairman Mary Nichols. “This study is further evidence that we are on the right track, and ARB will continue to work with truckers and equipment owners to clean up diesel emissions, improve our air quality and protect public health. ARB is committed to reducing this staggering statistic because one premature death is one too many.”

The ARB report and its methodology were based on recent science assessments completed by the US Environmental protection Agency (EPA) as part of the agency’s periodic review of the national air quality standards for PM2.5. The review, completed this spring, included peer review by the federal Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee.

As a result of this review, the US EPA concluded that there is a causal relationship between exposure to fine particle pollution and premature death. The initial US EPA review was followed by a related risk assessment report released in June that estimated premature deaths nationwide from exposure to fine particulate pollution. The US EPA considered evidence from multiple peer-reviewed studies, and the estimates of premature death were based on a key nationwide study of exposure to fine particle pollution involving about 500,000 people and 116 US cities, including Los Angeles and Fresno.

ARB used the methodology and risk factors from the peer-reviewed US EPA report and applied it to the entire state, drawing on California-specific data from 90 fine particulate monitoring stations to estimate the number of premature deaths that can be linked to this pollution. ARB’s report estimated that 9,200 premature deaths in California are associated with fine particulate pollution on an annual basis, with a statistical range from 7,300 to 11,000 premature deaths each year.

While exposure to PM2.5 has been linked to cardiovascular disease, the report focused only on premature deaths and did not estimate increased hospitalizations or other health impacts.

In 1998, ARB declared particles in diesel exhaust a Toxic Air Contaminant, a designation that required the Board to take measures to reduce the risk. The Diesel Risk Reduction program was instituted by ARB in 2000. Since then ARB has adopted many regulations to reduce diesel emissions including those from trucks, construction equipment, cargo handling equipment at ports and rail yards, transit buses and trash trucks among others.

Source: California ARB