15 million Spaniards are breathing air the EU considers polluted. Dirty air causes 64,000 early deaths every year in the UK, and this number is expected to rise sharply in the coming years. Worldwide it causes 8.8 million deaths each year, which is more than deaths caused by smoking. The costs for health systems are enormous. It is estimated that in the UK, by 2035 these costs for the NHS will be £18.6 billion by,unless action is taken. The researchers explain these figures are based on costs related to GP visits, medical prescriptions, hospital treatment and social care due to long-term health conditions, and do not take into account economic impacts due to lost productivity.
Amidst these gloomy numbers, comes now a report from MIT researchers that shows that the health savings from cleaner air exceed the policy costs of implementing a shift to renewable electricity, with a wide margin.
What is interesting about the MIT study is that it has nothing to do with global warming or rising carbon dioxide levels. Burning fossil fuels — any fossil fuels — creates pollutants known as fine particulate matter. These tiny particles of soot less than 2.5 microns in size can transfer directly into the bloodstream in the lungs.
Once absorbed into the body, they promote heart and lung disease, making us sick and in some cases shortening our lives. The illnesses attributed to fine particulate matter have economic consequences such as medical bills, lost income, and reduced productivity. Lowering the amount of fine particulates would have what economists call “health co-benefits.”
According to MIT associate professor Noelle Selin, those health co-benefits add up to a lot of money — so much, in fact, that the benefits more than pay for the installation of wind and solar systems needed to reduce the pollution. The study focussed on the US, but it seems reasonable to assume that the results can also be applied to Europe.
“This work shows that there are real, immediate benefits to people’s health in states that take the lead on clean energy,” says professor Selin.
In Europe hundreds of thousands of premature deaths can be prevented yearly, by shifting to clean energies like solar. On top of that billions of euros can be saved by reducing the strain on health systems. A true Win-Win.
Save Money….Save your Health…Go Solar!