Turn off the lights to save lives

Want to save a life? Turn off a light. A new University of Wisconsin study found that conserving electricity alleviates air pollution, saving lives and money. That might not seem like news. But the findings tied cutting carbon emissions not only to economic benefits but public health.

That might help green-minded policymakers in their political battles to help reduce carbon emissions, said study senior author Tracey Holloway, an environmental studies professor at Wisconsin.

“We’re trying to clarify how changes in energy systems have benefits for public health,” said Holloway in a statement. “For the most part, the energy community is not focused on the human health effects of air pollution.”

Publishing their work in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, the researchers estimated that a 12 percent increase in energy efficiency in the summer would reduce ozone and fine particulate matter, saving 475 human lives annually in the United States. They pegged the value of those lives at $4 billion. (€3.53 billion/CHF3.97 billion)

Reducing energy use would result in a savings of almost $0.05 per kilowatt hour, a big savings considering that electricity costs $0.10 per kilowatt hour on average.

“By saving electricity, we can also save lives,” said study lead author David Abel, a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment at the university,. “There is a range of health benefits. It’s a bonus. We find there are extra health reasons to turn off a light.”

Image credit: Alex Iby via Unsplash

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