If global warming continues unabated, a predicted rise in ozone pollution could saddle the United States with $5.4 billion in added public health costs linked to asthma and other respiratory illnesses, according to a new report by a nonprofit group.
The Union of Concerned Scientists' report ranked New York third among the 10 states most likely to suffer the worst health consequences and highest costs as a result in 2020. California and Texas were first and second.
"Our report shows that rising temperatures may exacerbate ozone pollution," said Liz Perera, a co-author of the study and the group's Washington representative for climate change policy.
A primary component of smog, ground-level ozone is produced when heat and sunlight react with chemicals in vehicle exhaust, smokestack emissions and common household products. Ozone can trigger coughing and chest pain, worsen bronchitis and emphysema, and reduce lung function, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
The Cambridge, Mass.-based scientists' group warned that failure to curb global warming could carry serious economic and public health penalties. Nationally, those include an estimated 2.8 million additional respiratory illnesses and 944,000 missed school days in 2020. The group analyzed the potential health consequences of climate-induced ozone increases in 40 states. They then used a federal model that estimates health and economic impacts from air quality changes to calculate costs.
Ozone levels are a particular concern on Long Island and in New York City, where emissions from local truck and vehicle traffic are worsened by pollution that blows in from Midwestern power plants and metropolitan areas.