Reduced emissions lead to improved air quality and, in turn, a reduction in asthma-related emergency room visits.
A new study from the Keck School of Medicine of USC has linked electric vehicles with improved health.
While EVs are typically associated with reducing emissions and, therefore, fighting climate change, there have been very few correlations between battery-powered cars and the health of individuals. The study occurred in EV-loving California, the country's biggest market for electric vehicles.
The team looked at several areas and compared electric vehicle registrations with air pollution levels and asthma-related emergency room visits in California between 2013 and 2019. As more people purchased a zero-emissions car in a specific zip code, emergency room visits declined along with air pollution levels.
You may have purchased your Tesla Model 3 because it's reasonably fast and has impressive tech - but it turns out you're improving the health of those around you.
"When we think about the actions related to climate change, often it's on a global level," said Erika Garcia, Ph.D. "But the idea that changes being made at the local level can improve the health of your community could be a powerful message to the public and policymakers."
The study found that for every 20 additional zero-emission vehicles per 1,000 people, there was a 3.2% reduction in asthma-related emergency room visits. Between 2013 and 2019, the adoption of these eco-friendly vehicles increased from 1.4 to 14.6 per 1,000 people.
Unsurprisingly, EV adoption was weaker in zip codes with lower levels of "education attainment." Adoption was also slower in zip codes considered to be low-resource areas. This means these areas will continue to be disproportionately affected by emissions and pollution-related illnesses.
This debate extends to other areas in the electric vehicle realm. Those without access to charging infrastructure are unlikely to purchase an electric vehicle, which commonly affects less affluent regions. More recently, a proponent of electric cars argued that local governments should provide more charging stations to boost adoption, especially in rural or isolated areas.
Low-income areas do, sadly, have to contend with greater levels of pollution than their wealthier contemporaries. The advent of electric vehicles will help assuage this issue, but high costs remain a hindrance to EV ownership. "Should continuing research support our findings, we want to make sure that those communities that are overburdened with traffic-related air pollution are truly benefiting from this climate mitigation effort," added Garcia.
Electric vehicles don't spew any emissions, benefitting the climate, but the research has shown that EVs can benefit the broader health of the public. This study could be the beginning of something bigger and, as the author notes, could lead to reduced healthcare expenditure.
While Garcia remains hopeful, she notes that future studies also need to consider other issues. Electric vehicles may not have a tailpipe from which they can emit pollution, but they are responsible for emitting tire emissions, for example.
Furthermore, Garcia adds that research will have to look at the impact of mining materials for EV production and the disposal of older vehicles.
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