14 Aug

Air pollution causes 275 deaths in Michigan a year, report estimates

Michigan Live

Air pollution causes 275 deaths in Michigan a year, report estimates

Marathon public hearing

Signs held by audience members at a public hearing n Detroit on a proposal from Marathon Petroleum to increase emissions of sulfur dioxide at its plant in Detroit, Jan. 28, 2016. (Tanya Moutzalias | MLive Detroit)

Julie Mack |

By Julie Mack

An estimated 275 people in Michigan die each year and another 640 experience serious illness as a result of air pollution that exceeds standards recommended by the American Thoracic Society, according to a new ATS report.

In addition, Michigan has 565,414 “impact days” a year, which represents the accumulative total of individuals’ lost work or school days or other limits in activities of poor air quality.

Among the 50 states, Michigan ranks seventh in the nation in estimated deaths related to air pollution, the ATS analysis shows.

The two region of Michigan most affected: The Detroit metro area and West Michigan areas downwind from Chicago, Milwaukee and Gary, Ind.

Allegan, Berrien and Muskegon had the highest scores among Michigan counties for air pollution, mainly in the form of high ozone levels, the ATS analysis shows.

Poor air quality can contribute to heart attacks, chronic bronchitis, hospital admissions or emergency room visits for people with cardiovacular or respiratory conditions, the study said.

The point of the ATS study is to publicize the health consequences of air pollution, according to Kevin Cromar, the lead author and director of air quality studies at New York University’s Marron Institute of Urban Management. The study appears in the Annals of the American Thoracic Study.

The study comes with an online database, which Cromar said he and his colleagues hope to update each year. (An MLive version of that database is at the end of this post.)

“We hope to create a tool that’s accessible for the public,” Cromar said. “We think information has a good place in making air quality decisions.”

He pointed out the number of people who die from poor air quality each year is roughly equivalant to the number killed in drunken-driving accidents.

Dr. Samya Nasr, a pediatric pulmonologist at University of Michigan, sees the impact of poor air quality on her patients.

Since the ozone levels are highest on very hot and sunny days, “just by watching the weather, we can tell how busy we’ll be,” she said.

Her patients include children with asthma and other lung conditions such as cystic fibrosis, she said.

On days with high ozone levels, “they can have a hard time breathing,” she said. “Sometimes, it’s so bad, we have to put them on a ventilator. Some kids actually die.”

The main take-away from the ATS study, she said, is that air pollution “is a very serious issue.”

The study looked at levels of two major air pollutants—ambient ozone and fine particulate matter— in the 650 counties with “federally valid air monitoring.” That includes 23 counties in Michigan.

Cromar and his colleagues estimated deaths and serious illnesses for each county based on levels of outdoor air pollution between 2011 and 2013, also factoring in city-specific demographics and baseline health conditions.

The study found the most severe air-pollution issues in California, where an estimated 3,632 people die a year because of poor air quality. That’s followed by Pennsylvania (728 deaths), Texas (604), Ohio (578), Arizona (357), New York (317) and Michigan (275).

Ozone is created when plumes of fossil fuel emissions from vehicles and factories mix with sunlight, which means the areas most impacted are often downwind from the place where the emissions are most concentrated.

For instance, Cromar said, the city of Los Angeles has lower ozone levels than its eastern suburbs; New York City has lower levels than southwest Connecticut, and Chicago has lower levels than southwest Michigan.

For that reason, “there needs to be some regional cooperation” in addressing air-quality issues, he said. “But there are also things every city can do to lower its ozone levels.”

Starting this year, the federal Environmental Protection Agency lowered its ozone standard from 75 parts per billion to 70 parts per billion. The ATS would like to see the standard set at 60 parts per billion, Cromar said.

The EPA has been pressuring the Michigan Department of Environmental Protection to bring down levels of sulfur dioxide in southwest Detroit and downriver cities of River Rouge and Ecorse.

Why Michigan missed EPA 'asthma epicenter' pollution plan deadline

Why Michigan missed EPA ‘asthma epicenter’ pollution plan deadline

DEQ says it needs more time to finish sulfur dioxide plan.

In May, the DEQ submitted a plan to reduce emissions by five primary polluters: U.S. Steel, Carmeuse Lime in River Rouge, EES Coke on Zug Island and DTE’s River Rouge and Trenton Channel coal-fired power plants.

Below is our database based on the ATS report. It shows the 23 Michigan counties in which air-quality data was available, the score given to each county, the number of estimated deaths and serious illnesses a year (mortality and morbidity) and the number of “impact days,” which are the estimated accumlated total of days in which individual county residents had to miss work or school or limit their activities because of poor air quality.

Comments are closed.

© 2023 | Entries (RSS) and Comments (RSS)

Global Positioning System Gazettewordpress logo