Study: EVs Lead to Fall in Childhood Asthma Cases

Study: EVs Lead to Fall in Asthma

In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers from the USC have found a link between EV adoption and reduced asthma hospitalizations.

In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers from the USC have found a link between EV adoption and reduced asthma hospitalizations.

In a recent study, researchers from the University of Southern California found a startling correlation: for every 2 percent jump in the number of electric vehicles in a given zip code, there was a corresponding two percent drop in asthma-related hospital emergency room visits.

“The transition to electric vehicles is projected to have considerable public health co-benefits, but most evidence regarding air quality and health impacts comes from projections rather than real-world data,” reads the study, titled, California’s early transition to electric vehicles: Observed health and air quality co-benefits, and co-authored by Erika Garcia, Jill Johnston, Rob McConnell, Lawrence Palinkas, and Sandrah P. Eckel, at USC.

The team decided that it was time to get some real-world data, and got to work. “We conducted a zip code-level ecologic study relating changes in annual number of ZEVs (nZEV) per 1000 population from 2013 to 2019 to: annual average monitored nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations and annual age-adjusted asthma-related emergency department (ED) visit rates, while considering educational attainment,” reads the report. “The average nZEV increased from 1.4 per 1000 population in 2013 (standard deviation [SD]: 2.1) to 14.7 per 1000 in 2019 (SD: 14.7). ZEV adoption was considerably slower in zip codes with lower educational attainment (p < 0.0001). A within-zip code increase of 20 ZEVs per 1000 was associated with a − 0.41 ppb change in annual average NO2 (95 % confidence interval [CI]:-1.12, 0.29) in an adjusted model. A within-zip code increase of 20 ZEVs per 1000 population was associated with a 3.2 % decrease in annual age-adjusted rate of asthma-related ED visits (95 % CI:-5.4, −0.9).”

Dr. Erika Garcia, a public health expert at USC’s and the study’s lead author said, “When we think about the actions related to climate change, often it’s on a global level … but the idea that changes being made at the local level can improve the health of your own community could be a powerful message to the public and to policy makers.”

What All That Means

Via University of Southern California study; courtesy Science Direct.

According to the FDA, more than 24 million people in the United States have asthma, and nearly 6 million of them are children. The chronic condition has been linked to pollen, airborne allergens, and the type of air pollution — carbon monoxide, CO2, and nitrous oxide emissions — typically associated with automobiles and trucks. And, because heavy traffic zones are typically surrounded by lower income developments, it’s often children from low-income families who get the worst of it. That’s something that the USC study made note of, as well.

“Observational data on the early phase ZEV transition in California provided a natural experiment, enabling us to document the first real-world associations between increasing nZEV and changes in air quality and health,” reads the report. “(The) results suggest co-benefits of the early-phase transition to ZEVs but with an adoption gap among populations with lower socioeconomic status which threatens the equitable distribution of possible co-benefits.”

Translation: neighborhoods with more EVs are seeing a drop in kids going to hospitals with asthma-related emergencies … and those, for now, are typically wealthier neighborhoods.

Still — this is good news. Electrify Expo (and, by extension, Electrify News) is a festival. We’re here to celebrate electric vehicles, how much fun they are, how electrification can open new doors, and help more people explore the great outdoors than ever before. And, no matter what you think about the energy grid or the high carbon cost of initial mineral mining, we think we can all agree: fewer sick kids is definitely something to celebrate.


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