N.J. ranks high in number of pollution-related deaths, study says
A study published Tuesday in Environmental Research Letters found that motor vehicle emissions caused an estimated 7,100 premature deaths in 12 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states in 2016, with New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania the three states with the highest death tolls.
New Jersey experienced an estimated 1,175 deaths in 2016 due to ozone and fine-particle pollution from vehicle emissions, a death toll was lower than both New York state, which had the highest at 2,024 deaths, and Pennsylvania, which had the second highest at 1,270 deaths, the study found. The 13-state region in the study had 7,130 deaths in 2016.
The study is part of the Transportation, Equity, Climate and Health (TRECH) Project, a multi-university research initiative independently analyzing the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), and other policy scenarios in reducing emissions.
Government agencies participating in TCI set pollution limits, then require fuel companies to buy and sell emissions allowances from the state and each other, which could earn the state $300 million annually, activists say.
While New Jersey is one of the states that is developing the TCI-P, the state has not begun the process needed to formally join the program.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Institute for the Environment and the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health analyzed the deaths from transportation-related air pollution generated by five vehicle types in 12 U.S. states and Washington, D.C.
“What makes this study different from previous studies is that it connects the dots between where the pollution happens, and where the premature deaths occur,” said Saravanan Arunachalam, research professor and UNC Institute for the Environment deputy director.
New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey residents were also hardest hit with emissions-related health costs at $21 billion, $13 billion, and $12 billion, respectively, in 2016, based on the most recent data available from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The transportation sector has been identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a main source of air pollution, particularly in causing health problems associated with air pollution exposures from traffic.
The study also found that pollution from tailpipe emissions is traveling across state lines and harming the health of people living in cities and states downwind.
In New Jersey, 42% of emissions related deaths were from vehicles in New Jersey; the rest were caused by traffic in other states. Vehicle emissions in New Jersey contributed to 683 premature deaths in other states, the study said.
Particulate matter in emissions from heavy duty trucks in New Jersey had the largest marginal health impacts or health damages caused by each ton of pollution emitted across all vehicle types and pollutants at approximately $1.8 million per ton of emissions.
On a ton for ton basis, buses in the New York-Newark-Jersey City metropolitan area had the largest health damages, at $4 million for every ton of particulate matter emitted, the study found.
“The research confirms that recent efforts to electrify the bus fleet in New York City will have large health benefits—or, the biggest bang for the buck. The cross-border impacts underscore the need for region wide action to curb transportation emissions,” Arunachalam said.
Environmentalists have lobbied for a speedier deployment of electric vehicles in New Jersey, citing negative health effects from emissions from diesel powered buses and trucks to urban residents. NJ Transit released a sustainability plan last month outlining its strategy and timetable to deploy electric buses, based on what the agency learns from an eight-bus pilot program in Camden and one to follow on the 25 route that serves Newark.
The agency has a mandate from Gov. Phil Murphy to meet, that all new bus purchases will be electric or other zero emission…