About a dozen people attended an event hosted by GASP last week featuring Carnegie Mellon University Professor Nicholas Z. Muller, author of a recently published study titled, “Recent Increases in Air Pollution: Evident and Implications for Mortality.”
The event, which took place at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh East Liberty branch, featured a lecture and question-and-answer period.
The study was co-authored by fellow CMU economist Karen Clay and explored how, after declining by 24.2 percent from 2009 to 2016, the annual average fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in the United States in counties with monitors increased by 5.5 percent between 2016 and 2018.
Increases occurred in multiple census regions and in counties that were in and out of attainment with National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).
During his chat, Muller discussed the channels through which the increase may have occurred, including increases in economic activity, increases in wildfires, and decreases in Clean Air Act enforcement actions. He said the health implications of this increase in PM2.5 between 2016 and 2018 are significant: The increase was associated with 9,700 additional premature deaths in 2018.
At conventional valuations, these deaths represent damages of $89 billion.