According to the CDC, Americans are now as likely to die from a car accident as they are of gun violence. In about 21 states, people are actually more likely to die from gunshot wounds than from vehicular accidents. This is a sobering statistic. But even more sobering is the fact that Americans are far more likely to die from air pollution than from an unfortunately placed bullet or car crashes combined. Look at these numbers:
2014 deaths by car: 10.3 per 100,000
2014 deaths by guns: 10.3 per 100,000
2014 deaths by air pollution: 70 – 130 per 100,000 (Baltimore had the highest rate at 130)
The numbers, of course, vary from year to year, but about 30,000 Americans die in car accidents, 30,000 Americans die from guns, and 200,000 + Americans die annually from air pollution.
Let’s put these statistics into real numbers for one state. In a recent year, Utah lost 256 people to car accidents, 260 people to gun violence and about 1300 people from air pollution.
So, where is the outrage when it comes to America’s dirty air?
The problem is when someone dies from a gunshot wound or car accident, the cause is obvious, not to mention often graphic—but with air pollution, death usually creeps up insidiously and ambiguously… Essentially no one lands in the morgue with a toe tag that says “died of air pollution.” Instead, the cause of death is listed as heart attack, asthma, lung disease, stroke, SIDS or cancer. But the result is the same – lives cut tragically and unnecessarily short.
Equally tragically is that we know air pollution kills, yet we do not do everything we can to clean-up our air.
We let big industrial polluters and trade associations bully us into thinking we must choose between a strong economy and clean air, which is a false choice. In fact, the EPA has shown that for every dollar spent on pollution mitigation and prevention, $30 to $90 of economic benefit is returned to local communities. Just think of the world’s richest nations versus the world’s poorest nations. Who has cleaner air? Clean air and wealth go hand-in-hand.
As long as we accept dirty air and its accompanying mortality, we will have dirty, stinky air. But when we stand up together and say the birthright of every child to breathe clean air trumps the rights of industry to pollute, then we will have clean air.
To get involved with the national clean air movement join Moms Clean Air Force and to see one state, Utah, get serious about cleaning up their air, visit the Utah Moms for Clean Air. Extra-motivated? Start your own grassroots clean air group and help fight for the air we all share.