Cleaning up air pollution has the power to significantly benefit public health, extending life expectancy by approximately five month, a new study shows.
Researchers at Brigham Young University and Harvard School of Public Health say that average life expectancy in 51 American cities has risen in the past couple of decades, in part due to cleaner air.
The scientists acknowledged that there are a number of factors that influence how long people live, but said the results show the country is "getting a substantial return on investments in improving our air quality."
"Such a significant increase in life expectancy attributable to reducing air pollution is remarkable," lead author Dr C. Arden Pope III commented.
As part of the study, the team compared two sets of data from the cities, which took into account changes in air pollution in 1980 and 2000, as well as life expectancy.
They also used statistical modeling to account for factors such as population change, income, demographics and smoking.
Long-term exposure to air pollution is thought to affect blood pressure, heart attack risk and the chances of dying from cardiovascular disease and lung cancer.