Further SO2 cuts give greater health benefits

Air pollution legislation to reduce sulphur dioxide (SO2) has effectively reduced rates of premature deaths, new research suggests, and additional reductions would lead to even further public health benefits.

European SO2 emissions have come down by more than 80 per cent since 1990. The EU Aphecom project has assessed deaths associated with changes in SO2 concentrations in 20 cities prior to the legislation and during each of its phases. An increase of 1 microgram of SO2 per cubic metre was shown to have the same impact on mortality in the late 2000s (post-legislation) as in early 1990 (pre-legislation). This confirms the previously identified relationship between SO2 and mortality, and suggests that also low SO2 levels are associated with health impacts.

The results imply that SO2 concentrations have a consistent and direct relationship with mortality at both high and low concentrations, which suggests that legislation limiting SO2 emissions further will result in even greater public health benefits.

Source: Science for Environmental Policy, 5 June 2014

Study: Tertre, A. et al. (2014). Impact of legislative changes to reduce the sulphur content in fuels in Europe on daily mortality in 20 European cities: an analysis of data from the Aphekom project. Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health. 7(1): 83–91. DOI:10.1007/s11869-013-0215-x.

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