A change to all-electric transportation and a clean energy grid would have huge benefits for both the health care system and the population at large, according to a new study by the American Lung Association.
The study looks at the impact that a significant change to America’s transportation and energy sectors would have on people’s health. If all new passenger vehicles sold in the U.S. are EVs by 2035, all new heavy-duty vehicles sold are electric by 2040, and the electric grid turns away from fossil fuels, more than 110,000 premature deaths could be prevented by 2050, the report finds.
The American Lung Association also finds that the country would see 2.78 million fewer asthma attacks and 13.4 million fewer lost workdays. All in all, the changes would amount to $1.2 trillion in public health benefits.
Although some states are on track to achieve some of those targets, with states like New York, California, and Washington all legislating bans on internal combustion passenger vehicles by or before 2035, it remains unlikely that the whole country will follow suit and that the power grid will be fossil-free by then.
“I can advise [my patients] to limit their time spent outside to limit the pollution they are breathing; I can’t ensure that they have clean, healthy air to breathe – and that is incredibly frustrating to me,” Afif El-Hasan, a pediatrician and American Lung Association volunteer, told The Verge. “It should be a right of every child to play and develop somewhere safe. That should not be up for debate ever.”
Of course, air pollution doesn’t just affect people with asthma, it affects all Americans. It is especially damaging to lower-income communities and communities of color due to decades of inequitable land-use decisions and systemic racism, the study finds. A move away from ICE vehicles would have major benefits for all communities located near highways, electricity generation sites, ports, warehouses, and refineries.
For those interested in taking a closer look at how EVs could affect major cities, the American Lung Association has an interactive map with information about the health benefits of changing over to EVs by state and by city.