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Climate initiatives that reduce motor vehicle emissions can boost children's health, save money

ANI Mar 18, 2024

According to recent research, limiting carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from motor vehicles, as well as investing in electric cars and public transport, would reduce air pollution and improve children's health. They'd also save money.

Researchers from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, together with partners from the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Boston University's School of Public Health, published their findings in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

The researchers modelled the benefits of implementing multiple scenarios of the proposed climate policy framework known as the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) in 12 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia.

Under the most stringent cap on CO2 emissions and the investment scenario that devoted the most resources to mass transportation, they estimated a total of over 58,000 avoided cases of infant mortality, preterm birth, low birth weight, autism spectrum disorder, new cases of asthma, worsened asthma symptoms, and other respiratory illnesses.

Under TCI, fuel suppliers would be required to purchase carbon emissions allowances, the proceeds of which would go towards clean transportation programs. While this program was not implemented, it serves as a useful model for other climate mitigation policies.

Specifically, researchers modelled changes in ambient fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide between 2022 and 2032 associated with on-road transportation sector emissions under nine hypothetical CO2 emissions cap and investment scenarios proposed under TCI.

They estimated potential health co-benefits for adverse birth, pediatric respiratory, and neurodevelopmental outcomes using BenMAPR, a health impact assessment platform that builds from the EPA's Environmental Benefits Mapping and Analysis Program.

"Health benefits assessments often overlook children's health outcomes. Yet we know that early exposure to air pollutants has multiple detrimental effects on children's health and well-being, and these are preventable," says co-author Frederica Perera, PhD, DrPH, professor of environmental health sciences and director of translational research at the Columbia Center for

Children's Environmental Health at Columbia Mailman. Researchers also note the importance of strategic decarbonisation efforts as the climate crisis escalates.

"Ambitious carbon caps and policies that focus on vulnerable groups, including children, can both improve health outcomes and help mitigate the impacts of climate change," says first author Alique G. Berberian, MPH '19, PhD student and graduate student researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles,

The researchers also note the importance of including health and environmental justice in climate policies.

"Climate policies can have major effects not just on climate, but also on health and environmental justice. Our research shows the importance of including these other benefits of policies when evaluating climate policies," said senior author Jonathan Buonocore, ScD, assistant professor of Environmental Health at Boston University School of Public Health.

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