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Life expectancy up when cities clean the air

Study shows people live longer after fine-particulate air pollution reduced

6:01pm, January 21, 2009

Americans can breathe easier, thanks in part to a decrease in air pollution in recent years, according to a new analysis in the Jan. 22 New England Journal of Medicine.

The study evaluated changes in life expectancy and changes in the amount of fine-particulate air pollution in the United States over two decades. By the year 2000, Americans were living an average of 2.7 years longer than in 1980. About five months of that increase was linked to improvements in air quality, the study shows.

“For a policy maker this says, ‘Yeah, when you clean up the air, people live longer, and that’s important across the country,’ ” comments Joel Schwartz, an environmental epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

Fine-particulate air pollution — made of particles smaller than or equal to 2.5 microns in diameter — results from burning things such as gasoline, diesel and coal, or from high temperatur

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