After years of progress in reducing air pollution under the Obama Administration, air pollution rose dramatically in 2018 and led to nearly 10,000 deaths.

Two Carnegie Mellon researchers discovered a correlation between particulate matter pollution and premature death – an increase in particulate matter, or soot, was directly correlated to 9,700 premature deaths and $89 billion in economic damage during 2018.

Between 2009 and 2016, PM2.5 concentrations dropped around 24 percent before surging 5.5 percent in 2018. The results were not geographically consistent – concentrations rose in the West and Midwest regions but remained stagnant in the Northeast and South.

“After a decade or so of reductions,” said Nick Muller, a professor at Carnegie Mellon, and co-author of the study, “this increase is a real about-face.”


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The results, publicized online last week, as a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper focused on 653 counties – accounting for around 20 percent of all counties with monitors for the PM2.5 particles. 

This particle is harmful to those with asthma, congestive heart failure and similar ailments. In addition, it is linked to premature death in the senior communities. 

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