New Study Reveals Large and Unequal Health Burden From Air Pollution in California’s Bay Area

New research published today in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives from Environmental Defense Fund and the George Washington University shows air pollution takes an enormous toll on health in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the impacts vary dramatically within neighborhoods.


The magnitude of the health burden from pollution demonstrates the need for urgent action to cut air pollution and protect health, particularly in areas facing the highest impacts.

The analysis estimated that exposure to particle pollution (soot) resulted in more than 3,000 deaths and 5,500 new childhood asthma cases every year in the Bay Area. Exposure to the traffic-related pollutant nitrogen dioxide also had alarming health impacts, resulting in more than 2,500 deaths and 5,200 new childhood asthma cases every year. While the impacts of these pollutants are not additive, the findings illustrate the massive harm caused by air pollution to adults and children in cities.

These health impacts vary dramatically from street-to-street, and some communities experience a much larger burden. In certain areas, death rates resulting from pollution are more than 30 times higher than in others. And for asthma, while traffic-related air pollution accounts for an average of 1 in 5 new childhood asthma cases across the Bay Area, pollution is responsible for up to 1 in 2 cases in some areas.

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