Almost 10,000 additional premature deaths last year in the United States were caused by an increase in the amount of pollutants in the air, according to a new study released this week by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Carnegie Mellon economists Karen Clay and Nicholas Muller, who carried out the study of Environmental Protection Agency data, found that particulate matter air pollution fell 24% in the U.S. from 2009 to 2016 but then increased 5.5% the next two years, which correlated with 9,700 premature deaths, The Hill reported.
The deaths represent $89 billion worth in damages, according to the economists.
In an expanded look at the study, CBS News reported that Clay and Muller said the increase in air pollution was due to a stronger economy and a larger number of wildfires.
They explained that a stronger economy resulted in more pollution-emitting vehicles on the roads, such as trucks, as well as an increase in carbon emissions by manufacturers.
Wildfires release high amounts of damaging chemicals into the atmosphere, as well as pollutants that are harmful to humans. The economists said that due to the significant increase in wildfires in the West since 2016 "and the large exposed population in California, we find that nearly 43% of the increase in deaths nationally from 2016 to 2018 occurred in California."
Another leading factor for the worsening air pollution was less strict federal regulations, such as a decline in federal enforcement of the Clean Air Act, according to the study.
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