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Pollution, premature death linked

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http://www.masslive.com/news/topstories ... xml&coll=1

Thursday, March 23, 2006



A new study has found that when particle pollution - often seen as a fine haze over urban areas - is reduced, there is a proportional reduction in premature deaths from such things as heart disease and lung cancer.

The news has importance for Springfield, which, on average, has the worst particle pollution problem in the state outside of Boston.

The results of the 24-year study were published in the March 15 issue of The American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

The study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found for each decrease of one millionth of a gram of soot per cubic meter of air, death rates from cardiovascular disease, respiratory illness and lung cancer decrease by 3 percent, which could extend the lives of 75,000 people a year in the United States.

Particle pollution, which can be emitted by power plants, diesel trucks, home furnaces, wood stoves, industries and other sources, is estimated to kill tens of thousands of Americans each year. The particles, which include tiny droplets and bits of soot, can enter the lungs and travel throughout the cardiovascular system.

The pollution is highest in urban areas, and the bigger the city, the more severe the problem tends to be. Nevertheless, Springfield's particle pollution problem often is the worst in the state.

In 2004, the highest single-day measurement of very fine particles in Massachusetts was taken at an air monitor on Liberty Street in Springfield. It was 26 percent higher than any other reading in the state that year, including at locations in downtown Boston.

Contributing to Springfield's problem are prevailing winds that bring particle pollution from Midwest coal-burning power plants and vehicle pollution from New York City into the region, said Nancy L. Seidman, a division director of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

"That is part of the reason. Another part is meteorological. Springfield is in a valley," which can hold pollution in place, she said.

Currently, Massachusetts meets federal standards for particle pollution. However, James C. Colman, DEP's assistant commissioner, said, "Even though the state, as a whole, can be in attainment of the EPA rules, we need to all recognize that local areas and neighborhoods can still have problems."

Laws passed in Massachusetts and nationally in recent years have tried to reduce particle pollution by requiring cleaner fuels and vehicles as well as more effective pollution control equipment in industry. As a result, the Northeast had a 29 percent reduction in particle pollution from 1988 to 2003.

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