Changes being made locally can improve the health of communities, which sends a powerful message.
Chalk another benefit up for electric vehicles. Not only do they help us reduce C02 emissions, they can also help reduce incidents of asthma.
So says a team of researchers at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California who examined the role that EVs play in reducing air pollution and therefore boosting respiratory health outcomes. The scientists compared data on total EV registration, air pollution levels and asthma-related emergency room visits in California between 2013 and 2019.
What they found was that as EV adoption increased within a given area, local air pollution levels decreased and so did emergency room visits related to asthma.
“When we think about the actions related to climate change, often it’s on a global level,” explains Erika Garcia, an assistant professor of population and public health sciences at the Keck School of Medicine who was the lead author of a study. “But the idea that changes being made at the local level can improve the health of your own community could be a powerful message to the public and to policymakers.”
To study the effects of EV adoption, the researchers compared different datasets, including the adoption of cars with electric batteries, plug-in hybrids, and those with hydrogen fuel cells. They then tabulated the total number of these vehicles registered in each zip code for every year during the study period.
The scientists also obtained data on levels of nitrogen dioxide, which is known to worsen asthma, as well as on the number of asthma-related visits to emergency rooms in each zip code.
“At the zip code level, for every additional 20 ZEVs (zero emissions vehicles) per 1,000 people, there was a 3.2% drop in the rate of asthma-related emergency visits and a small suggestive reduction in NO2 levels,” they explain. “On average across zip codes in the state, ZEVs increased from 1.4 to 14.6 per 1,000 people between 2013 and 2019.”
It was also found that in zip codes with more affluent people who had higher educational attainment the adoption of EVs was greater, highlighting the socioeconomic dimensions of air pollution.
“Should continuing research support our findings, we want to make sure that those communities that are overburdened with the traffic-related air pollution are truly benefiting from this climate mitigation effort,” Garcia stresses.
Transitioning to EVs is only one solution for improving urban air quality, the scientists say.
“Shifting to public transport and active transport, including walking and biking, are other key ways to boost environmental and public health,” they note.