FeatureEvidence in Action

Clear findings, smoggy debate

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Science  10 Feb 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6325, pp. 567
DOI: 10.1126/science.355.6325.567

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Summary

Proposed rules to cut air pollution regulations often prompt fierce debate, despite decades of studies showing that dirtier air contributes to heart, lung, and other health problems that shorten lives, and that as air gets cleaner, premature deaths decline. The World Health Organization, for instance, has estimated that nations could prevent some 3 million premature deaths annually by 2050 if they could simply prevent outdoor soot and ozone levels from rising above 2010 levels. But although there is technical agreement that cleaner air is healthier air, there's fierce conflict over how to calculate the economic costs and benefits of cutting pollution and how much society should pay to make it happen. The clash highlights the tension between evidence and societal values, scholars say.