LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Air pollution is taking a toll on our health and our wallets. That's according to a team of researchers with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
In a newly published study, the NRDC says ozone air pollution led to 97 premature deaths, 114 hospital admissions, and $898 million in health costs in just one year in Nevada.
"This is a really significant, costly problem for people living in Las Vegas and Nevada overall," said Vijay Limaye, an environmental epidemiologist with the NRDC. He studies how climate change impacts our health and says Nevada's ozone air pollution is some of the worst in the country.
"Last year, Clark County experienced 35 ozone exceedence days, that's more than a month of days in which the levels of ozone air pollution exceeded the federal standard. That's a jump, almost doubling of the year prior," Limaye said.
According to the Clark County Department of Air Quality, many of those exceedence days happened because of a bad wildfire season in California. Ozone is typically worse during the summer months. Pollutants, wildfires, and hot temperatures create a perfect oven for ozone air pollution.
Dr. Constantine George says his patients with pulmonary and respiratory issues are in more frequently on days with bad air quality.
"It's a very irritating particulate that we breathe in," Dr. George said. "There is proven factual information that it does cause irritation of the development of the lungs but if you're an adult and your lungs are developed already, it can have an affect on underlying health conditions as well."
In the worst cases, long term exposure can lead to death.
The Clark County Department of Air Quality says the region's air quality is better than you'd think and leaps and bounds better than what it was years ago.
"We have seen a 12 percent decrease in ozone since 2007. We've cut particulate matter in half since 2001, and we've had an 80 percent increase in carbon monoxide since 1982," said Public Information Officer Kevin MacDonald.
With a failing grade from the American Lung Association, there's still some work to do to improve Clark County's air.
We can make a positive change by opting for public transportation or carpooling, conserving energy at home and work, keeping car engines properly maintained, tires properly inflated, and try refueling your car in the evening when it's cooler outside.
"The more we understand about the risks of exposure, the more evidence and reason we have to urgently act to address the underlying problem," Limaye said.