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Study Finds Moving To Zero Emission Vehicles Would Have Health Benefits For Bay Area, Save Lives

SAN MATEO (KPIX 5) – A transition to zero-emission vehicles nationwide would have a major impact on air quality and the health of residents in the Bay Area and across California, according to the American Lung Association's "Zeroing in on Healthy Air" report.

The report is based upon the idea that all new passenger vehicles sold by 2035 are zero-emission, and all new trucks and buses sold by 2040 are zero-emission.

The ALA's findings reveal California would see $169 billion in public health benefits, and a change would result in up to 15,300 deaths.

"In the San Francisco Bay Area, we see over $40 billion in public health benefits by 2050 through this transition. That comes out to about 3,800 lives saved, over 100,000 asthma attacks avoided, and over 500,000 lost workdays avoided because the air would be cleaner in the Bay Area," said Will Barrett, the ALA's National Senior Director for Clean Air Advocacy.

Nationally, the transition would generate more than $1.2 trillion in health benefits and $1.7 trillion in climate benefits by 2050.

Barrett explained the study focused on the public health benefits of getting off of fossil fuels.

"There are thousands and thousands of premature deaths every year in California due to air pollution," Barrett told KPIX 5. "There's a wide range of negative health consequences associated with unhealthy air. It's everything from minor irritation – like coughing and wheezing – to more serious health emergencies, like asthma attacks, heart attacks, and strokes. Breathing in particle pollution can cause lung cancer."

Amy Primus, who owns an electric vehicle, thinks the American Lung Association's report is just one more reason to make the switch to electric.

"We should become electric with all vehicles and trucks because it'll make a huge difference in air quality, standard of life, and all of that," she said.

The Zero Emission Transportation Association issued the following statement to KPIX 5 in response to the ALA's report:

"Fossil fuel-powered transportation is dangerous, causing thousands of illnesses and deaths each year. Luckily, there is a healthier way for us to go about our daily lives. The American Lung Association's new "Zeroing in on Healthy Air" report proves that point. If we transition to electric vehicles powered by clean electricity, we could save 110,000 lives over the next thirty years. We could also avoid $1.2 trillion in public health costs and more than $1.7 trillion in environmental costs.

Importantly, because we know that the burden of breathing unhealthy air is not shared equally among people, this report also investigated the 100 U.S. counties with the highest percentages of people of color. Despite representing just 3% of U.S. counties, these counties could experience approximately 13% of the benefits of electrification—or $155 billion in avoided health and environmental damages.

The benefits of electrifying the transportation sector are unequivocal and vast. With more than 100,000 lives and trillions of dollars on the line, Congress must act now to pass President Biden's clean energy agenda. This plan will jumpstart electric vehicle adoption in the U.S. by driving down consumer prices, expanding the EV charging network, and electrifying our high-polluting heavy-duty fleets."

Barrett said there's a long way to go over the next few decades, but the process will have a major impact on air quality and public health as it unfolds.

"We know there's a long way to go, but we also know there's active policy action right now," he said.

Under an executive order by Gov. Gavin Newsom, California will halt sales of new gas-powered cars and passenger trucks by 2035.

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