Clean up air and death rate drops, study finds

Ah, science. It never fails to dazzle and delight. Consider this wildly counterintuitive result: When air pollution falls in a city, fewer people in that city die. Jump back! In a new study, researchers tracked particulate pollution concentrations in six U.S. metropolitan areas from 1974 through 1998, along with the health of 8,096 residents. Each decrease of 1 microgram of soot per cubic meter of air lowered mortality rates from lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory illness by 3 percent — meaning longer lives for 75,000 people a year. Lead author Francine Laden says the findings bolster scientific recommendations to toughen current air-quality standards: “the message here is that if you continue to decrease [pollution levels], you will save more lives.”