Better Air, Longer Lives

Cleaner air has increased American life expectancy by nearly five months.©

A new federally funded study shows that cleaner air in the U.S. over the past two decades has led to an overall increase in life expectancy of nearly five months for Americans on average. Researchers from Brigham Young University and the Harvard School of Public Health found that between 1978 and 2001, Americans" average life span increased almost three years to 77. They attribute as much as 4.8 months of that increase to better air quality thanks to compliance with and enforcement of strong environmental laws—especially the landmark Clean Air Act—enacted in the early and mid-1970s.

"This finding provides direct confirmation of the population health benefits of mitigating air pollution," said Daniel Krewski, a pollution researcher at the University of Ottawa in Canada who helped with the study, which appeared in last week’s issue of the peer-reviewed New England Journal of Medicine.

Sources: The New England Journal of Medicine; MSNBC