We may not have noticed it, but Americans are breathing a little easier thanks to a great story for the country’s air quality.
A Rice University study concludes that states are successfully reducing a harmful air pollutant called fine particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5) in diameter, which can stay suspended in the atmosphere for weeks and has been linked to chronic and fatal diseases.
In fact, the study found that state efforts have been so successful that most urban areas had already lowered PM2.5 to more stringent levels instituted in 2012 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The improvements are good enough to translate into Americans living slightly longer lives.
“The trend across the country is that air quality is improving,” says Daniel Cohan, an atmospheric researcher and associate professor of environmental engineering. “Power plants are getting better at controlling emissions. There are more industrial controls to pollution. Cars are getting cleaner.”