Cleaner ship fuels will reduce childhood asthma by 3.6% globally

In 2020 a regulation requiring ship fuels to contain up to 86 per cent less sulphur will come into force. It could lead to a 3.6 per cent reduction in childhood asthma globally.

Marine shipping fuels will become much cleaner in 2020 when a regulation by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) requires fuels to contain 80 to 86 per cent less sulphur.

This is the most significant improvement in global fuel standards for the shipping industry in a century, according to a statement.

Now, a study has found that cleaner shipping fuels could result in a 3.6 per cent reduction in childhood asthma globally.

Roughly 14 million annual cases of childhood asthma are estimated to be related to global ship pollution using current fuels.

Shipping pollution is also estimated to contribute to 400,000 premature deaths from lung cancer and cardiovascular disease annually.

The new study was led by the University of Delaware’s professor of marine science and policy, James Corbett, who said in the statement: “Essentially, we document how much health benefit to expect from the 2020 adoption of cleaner ship fuels.”

The team studied the impact of sulphur emitted by ships using current marine fuels, which produce air pollution particles small enough to be inhaled deeply into the lungs and considered harmful to human health.

Ship air pollution effects are greatest in areas with heavily travelled ship routes close to densely populated communities. Key regions include China, Singapore, Panama, Brazil and coastlines of Asia, Africa and South America.

Researchers used a state-of-the-art model of ship traffic based on satellite records to determine where ship activity was producing emissions, and adjusted to account for expected vessel emission growth rates by the year 2020.

They used another high-resolution model to see how ship emissions would mix and chemically transform in the atmosphere, how they disperse and how they contribute to air quality where people live.

Photo credit: Paul Istoan/ CC BY-NC 2.0

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