WEDNESDAY, June 7, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- Electric cars can save millions of lives and reduce health care costs by improving air quality so people can breathe better and freer, according to a new report by the American Lung Association.
If all new cars, pick-up trucks, and SUVs sold by 2035 were zero-emission, there would be up to 89,300 fewer premature deaths, 2 million fewer asthma attacks, 10.7 million fewer lost workdays, and a savings of $978 billion in public health benefits across the United States by 2050, according to the association's projections.
"Transportation is a leading source of air pollution and climate change pollution, and we will continue to have challenges meeting clean air standards until we transition passenger vehicle sales to zero-emission," report author Will Barrett, senior director for clean air advocacy at the American Lung Association, told HealthDay.
The new report also projects that the nation's electric grid will be powered by clean energy instead of fossil fuels by 2035. This grid produces electricity via renewable energy generators, such as off-shore wind, land-based wind, hydropower, solar power, and other sources.
"The report essentially illustrates the potential for major health benefits if all new passenger vehicles sold are zero-emission coupled with a net-zero power grid," said Barrett. And the momentum is growing, he added. So far, six states have followed California's lead in prohibiting the sale of new gas-powered cars by enacting the Advanced Clean Cars II rule. It states that all new passenger cars, trucks, and SUVs will be zero-emission by 2035.
Transitioning to zero-emissions vehicles will be a win-win, reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and improving local air quality and health, Sandrah Eckel, Ph.D., an associate professor in the department of population and public health sciences at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles, told HealthDay. The new findings echo results of a February 2023 study that Eckel and colleagues published showing that California neighborhoods with the most all-electric cars had a decline in asthma-related emergency room visits.
Zero-emissions vehicles are one part of the solution to a complex problem. "Can you imagine a similar transition towards more active transport like walking and biking? I bet the health and air quality co-benefits would be even more remarkable," Eckel said.