Air pollution killing more Americans under Trump than Obama: Study

It found that 9,700 more people died in 2018 due to air pollution in the US than in 2016 because the Trump administration has made it easier to emit PM2.5 pollution

By DTE Staff
Published: Tuesday 29 October 2019
Credit: Vijayendra Pratap Singh/CSE

Air pollution, especially PM2.5 pollution, increased in the United States (US) ever since Donald J Trump assumed the Presidency in 2016 and relaxed law enforcement governing such pollution, a new study has said.

The study was conducted by researchers Karen Clay and Nicholas Muller from Carnegie Mellon University.

The researchers analysed monitoring data collected daily as part of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Air Quality System in 653 US counties.

They found that from 2009 to 2016, PM2.5 pollution declined by 24.2 per cent. However, between 2016 and 2018, PM2.5 pollution increased by 5.5 per cent.

The scientists looked into three potential causes of the increase: Economic growth, wildfires, and a decline in enforcement activity.

The study found that sulphur emissions, mostly produced by coal plants, continued to decline from 2016 to 2018, while nitrate and elemental carbon increased.

“The chemical composition of particulates point to increased use of natural gas and to vehicle miles travelled as likely contributors to the increase,” the authors said in their report.

While increasing wildfires in California and the western US could also cause large-scale PM2.5 emissions, the scientists said if the wildfire season (June to September) in the West, Midwest, and California, and November 2018 in California when two major wildfires occurred were excluded, the fires would not have made much of a difference.

As for the third potential cause, the paper said the decline in enforcement actions did not fully match the decline and then rise in emissions.

However, there was no question the Trump administration had been trying to make it easier to emit PM2.5 pollution. The study found that Clean Air Act enforcement actions fell in the first two years of the Trump administration, although the researchers note that the trend toward lax enforcement started well before 2017.

The study found that 9,700 more people died in 2018 due to air pollution in the US than in 2016.

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :
Related Stories

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.