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Report: Air pollution is shortening lifespans in these Western Washington communities

A recent study from Washington’s Department of Ecology identified a handful of areas where air pollution could be shortening the lifespan of some residents.

The report identified 16 areas in the state as “overburdened,” where residents face a higher rate of death from air pollution compared to the state average.

Those areas include Everett, South King County, North Seattle/Shoreline, South Seattle, South/East Tacoma, and Northeast Puyallup among others.

On average people in those communities were found to be “twice as likely to die from health conditions” linked to human-caused air pollutants. Between 2016 and 2020, people across all age groups also lived an average of nearly two-and-half fewer years compared to the rest of the state.

The state found that several chemicals in the air are contributing to this, coming from sources like wildfires, motor vehicles, and facilities like paper mills, power plants, and oil refineries.

Washington has a plan to nearly eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The next benchmark is in 2030, where the goal is to cut nearly half of our current state emissions.

“The findings in this report underscore the importance of the strong air quality and environmental justice provision contained in the Climate Commitment Act,” Dept. of Ecology Director Laura Watson said in a news release. “The Climate Commitment Act not only decreases harmful greenhouse gas emissions but also takes concrete steps to reduce air pollution that unfairly impacts the most vulnerable people in our state.”