June 1, 2009

Reducing gas emissions has health dividend

Eliminating 10 percent of current gasoline pollutant emissions would have a substantial beneficial impact on U.S. human health, researchers said.

The University of California Berkeley researchers developed a Life Cycle Impact Assessment to measure the benefits on human health that might result from a switch to biofuels.

While the successful deployment of biofuels requires research to overcome technical barriers, there are other barriers that can often impose constraints more challenging than those related to technical feasibility, including constraints imposed by health risks, researcher Thomas McKone said in a statement. Just think, if we had done a life cycle impact assessment on the human health effects of gasoline years ago we might not be in the situation we're facing today.

Assessments of the life cycle impacts of emissions from gasoline-run motors in the United States on a county-by-county basis show that the heaviest damage -- darkest coloring -- is concentrated in urban areas, especially Los Angeles, New York and Chicago.

Large urban regions also suffered disproportionate health damage as a result of benzene emissions at service stations and during the transporting by truck of gasoline to service stations, the researchers said.

The findings are being presented at the at the 31st Symposium on Biotechnology for Fuels and Chemicals in San Francisco.