The Transition to Electric Vehicles Could Avert Millions of Childhood Asthma Episodes


Living in a car-centric neighborhood might feel like a budget move, but the real cost hits your health harder than you’d think. Traffic jams aren’t just annoying; they also cause asthma, cancer, and pulmonary diseases, with higher rates in communities of color. It’s high time we ditch the pollution and switch to electric vehicles – our lungs will thank us, and the kids won’t have to grow up thinking that smog is just a moody filter applied to life. 

Living by Highways: A Risky Choice

In cities nationwide, large roadways are disproportionately built in low-income communities and communities of color. Exhaust fumes from gas and diesel vehicles come with a high cost: higher rates of health issues like asthma, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and pulmonary ailments. These conditions shorten life spans and further perpetuate wealth gaps due to medical costs and time lost to illness.

A Cleaner Vision

But imagine a world where cars and trucks emit no fumes, running purely on electric power. This shift could dramatically improve the quality and length of lives of those living near sources of air pollution, as the American Lung Association study suggests. The research points to a future where widespread transition to electric vehicles (EVs) could prevent nearly 3 million asthma attacks and hundreds of infant deaths, alongside numerous other respiratory ailments. Kids, being particularly vulnerable to air pollution, stand to benefit the most.

Unsettling Statistics

About 27 million children live in high pollution areas. Previous research by the same association reveals that 120 million people in the U.S. breathe unhealthy air daily. There’s no safe threshold for air pollution – it affects everyone.

Clean Air Movements Across the States

Bipartisan efforts to strengthen clean air standards have already made strides. For instance, in California, stronger-than-national standards mandate that 100% of new cars sold by 2035 must be zero-emission. Other states, like Maryland, Colorado, New Mexico, and Rhode Island, have adopted similar standards. While the Biden administration is taking similar steps, they’ve had to slow their progress due to pushback from automakers and trade unions.

Targeting Main Culprits

While passenger vehicle electrification is remarkable, the main villains are diesel trucks. These trucks, though just 5-10% of all vehicles, generate the majority of harmful emissions. The Biden administration pledges that 30% of all heavy-duty vehicles sold by 2030 will be electric, while California aims to regulate heavy-duty truck emissions heavily.

Immediate Change is Necessary

Despite incentives and legislative mandates promoting EVs, health threats from combustion engines necessitate immediate changes. The administration is deliberating truck standards to reduce emissions from heavy-duty vehicles by 29% by 2032 using battery-electric and hybrid vehicles. Additionally, study authors recommend the EPA finalizing multi-pollutant regulations for light and medium-duty vehicles under consideration. Coupled with increased public EV charging stations, tax credits, and other incentives, these measures could significantly improve American highways and public health.

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