“The Affordable Clean Energy Rule, ACE, gives states the regulatory certainty they need to continue to reduce emissions and provide affordable and reliable energy for all Americans,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said.
Wheeler said that between 2005 and 2017, total US energy carbon dioxide emissions fell by more than 14%. “We owe much of this progress to the genius of the private sector and free markets, not the heavy hand of government,” he said.
“With this rule, EPA does virtually nothing to address its obligation to regulate carbon dioxide and confirms its support of the coal industry at the expense of our health and our children’s future,” former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a statement Wednesday.
So how does air pollution affect health?
More deaths than ‘traffic accidents and homicides combined’
Of these deaths, 57% were associated with pollution caused by energy consumption, the study found. About 28% were related to transportation, 14% to electricity generation from coal-fired and gas plants and 15% to pollution caused by farm activities like the application and storage of manure and other fertilizers.
“Overall, the number of deaths we are seeing with this, that’s more than traffic accidents and homicides combined,” Julian Marshall, co-author of the recent study and a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Washington said previously.
Air pollution linked to diabetes
It found that in 2016, air pollution contributed to 3.2 million new diabetes cases worldwide,14% of the total. In the United States, air pollution was linked to 150,000 new cases of diabetes per year.
While obesity, lack of exercise and genetic risk are major drivers for diabetes, studies have shown a link between the disease and pollution. Air pollution is thought to trigger inflammation and reduce the ability of the pancreas to manage insulin production.
Air pollution particles found in the womb
Based on their results, the researchers theorize that pre-birth exposure to air pollution can have negative health consequences later in life.
The researchers found that mothers with higher residential exposure to particulate matter had newborns with significantly lower telomere length and that this could not be explained by other factors including the mother’s body mass index, ethnicity or smoking status. More research is needed, the study authors said, but they noted that exposure to air pollution may lead to a buildup of free radicals that can damage DNA, RNA and proteins, which can lead to cell death and cardiovascular disease.
Scientists have also found evidence of air pollution traveling from a pregnant mother’s lungs into the placenta.
“We do not know whether the particles we found could also move across into the fetus, but our evidence suggests that this is indeed possible,” Dr. Norrice Liu, a pediatrician and clinical research fellow at Queen Mary University in London who led the research, said in a statement.
“We also know that the particles do not need to get into the baby’s body to have an adverse effect, because if they have an effect on the placenta, this will have a direct impact on the fetus.”
Children are more susceptible to harms
In 2016, 600,000 children were estimated to have died of acute lower respiratory infections caused by polluted air.
According to WHO, air pollution is one of the leading threats to health in children under 5, accounting for almost 1 in 10 deaths in this age group.
Air pollution also affects neurological development and cognitive ability and can trigger asthma and childhood cancer, the report says. Children exposed to excessive pollution may also be at greater risk of chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease in adulthood.
Children are more susceptible to pollution because they breathe more often, taking in more pollutants, and are closer to the ground, where some pollutants have higher concentrations.
Dirtier air is related to cognitive declines
Researchers at the International Food Policy Research Institute examined data from the national China Family Panel Studies longitudinal survey, mapping the cognitive test scores of nearly 32,000 people over the age of 10 between 2010 and 2014 against their exposure to short- and long-term air pollution.
The team found that both verbal and math scores “decreased with increasing cumulative air pollution exposure,” with the decline in verbal scores being particularly pronounced among older, less-educated men.
Cognitive decline and impairment, which could be caused by air pollution according to the study, are also potential risk factors in developing Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.
CNN’s Jen Christensen, Susan Scutti, Sandee LaMotte, James Griffiths, Meera Senthilingam and Mary McDougall contributed to this report.