Switching to electric vehicles would be fantastic for children’s health

A widespread switch to electric vehicles would be a huge boon to the health of many people around the world. But a new report from the American Lung Association highlights the particular benefits for children, especially those vulnerable to respiratory diseases.

Based on a model in which all new vehicles sold by 2035 would be zero-emission, the group concludes that there would be 2.7 million fewer asthma attacks among children, as well as 147,000 fewer acute cases of bronchitis. The transition to electric vehicle-only sales would also prevent 2.67 million cases of upper respiratory symptoms and 1.87 million cases of lower respiratory symptoms in children. And there would be 508 fewer infant deaths.

Highlighting the specific impact that switching to electric vehicles would have on children was important because children’s bodies develop at a different pace than adults,” said Laura Kate Bender, national assistant vice president for Air Health the American Lung Association.

“Children are at greater risk from air pollution, their lungs are still growing.”

“Children are at greater risk from air pollution, their lungs are still growing,” she said in an interview. “I can say that as someone who grew up with asthma, [it] took me to the ER more times than I think my parents would have liked.”

Internal combustion engine vehicles are major drivers of climate change and are responsible for more than a quarter of all global emissions. That’s why governments around the world are trying to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles, which emit far fewer pollutants into the atmosphere. Children will benefit greatly from this switch, especially those who are at particular risk for respiratory disease.

We assume that by 2035 all new passenger cars sold in the US will be electric cars and by 2040 all new heavy-duty vehicles will be electric. Furthermore, those vehicles would have to be powered by an electricity grid that is also free of fossil fuels.

“We view the two as inseparable,” Bender said of electric vehicles and a zero-emissions electric grid. “This is how you really achieve the greatest possible health gain.”

The transition to selling electric vehicles only will be difficult, especially as demand for plug-in cars falters due to high prices and concerns about the availability and reliability of charging points. Yet sales have risen steadily year on year, with electric vehicles accounting for just over 8 percent of all car sales by 2023.

Vehicles with combustion engines are major drivers of climate change

But “fleet turnover” can be sluggish, especially as conventional gas-powered cars and trucks become more capable, break down less and stay on the road longer. The average light vehicle on the road today is twelve years old, up from 9.6 years in 2002.

If the United States wants to transition to an all-electric fleet by 2050 — to meet President Biden’s goal of net-zero emissions — then sales of gasoline vehicles would likely have to stop altogether around 2035. That is an extremely difficult task.

Things could get even tougher if the EPA follows through with its plan to slow the transition to electric-only sales. Under pressure from automakers and unions, the Biden administration recently backed down on strict new Environmental Protection Agency rules that would have forced U.S. automakers to phase out gas-powered cars by 2032.

Still, the American Lung Association wants to emphasize the health benefits of such a transition – not just for us, but for our children as well. Bender said she hopes the report will serve as a wake-up call for policymakers, especially as they consider strengthening new emissions rules for cars and trucks.

“That would mean that even if automakers continue to make gas-powered vehicles, they would actually be cleaner,” she said. “So there are real gains to be made, even if the rules are on the table.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *