Despite improved air quality since the 1990s, pollution still causes lung disease, heart attacks and strokes that kill more than 30,000 Americans each year, a new study estimates.
Researchers looked at concentrations of fine pollution particles known as PM2.5 across the country from 1999 to 2015. These tiny particles — 30 times smaller than the width of a human hair — come from the combustion of cars, coal-fired power plants and other industrial sources.
When these particles are inhaled, they lodge in the small blood vessels in the lungs, and can over time cause lung disease. The particles also find their way into the bloodstream, where they raise the risk for heart attack and stroke, the researchers added.
“More stringent air pollution regulations in the U.S. have the potential to save tens of thousands of deaths each year and improve the longevity throughout the