Study Links Pollution from Marine Vessels to Heart and Lung Disease; Annual Deaths from Ship Emissions Could Increase 40% by 2012
Pollution from marine shipping causes approximately 60,000 premature cardiopulmonary and lung cancer deaths around the world each year, according to a report published online in the Articles ASAP section of the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
The report benchmarks for the first time the number of annual deaths caused globally by pollution from marine vessels, with coastal regions in Asia and Europe the most affected.
Conducted by James Corbett of University of Delaware and James Winebrake from Rochester Institute of Technology, the study correlates the global distribution of particulate matter—black carbon, sulfur, nitrogen and organic particles—released from ships’ smoke stacks with heart disease and lung cancer mortalities in adults.
The results indicate that approximately 60,000 people die prematurely around the world each year from shipping-related emissions. Under current regulation, and with the expected growth in shipping activity, Corbett and Winebrake estimate the annual mortalities from ship emissions could increase by 40% by 2012.
Corbett and Winebrake’s results come in the midst of current discussions by the International Maritime Organization to regulate emissions from ships.
Annual deaths related to shipping emissions in Europe are estimated at 26,710, while the mortality rate is 19,870 in East Asia and 9,950 in South Asia. North America has approximately 5,000 premature deaths, concentrated mostly in the Gulf Coast region, the West Coast and the Northeast, while the eastern coast of South America has 790 mortalities.
Ships run on residual oil—a byproduct of the refinery process&mash;which has sulfur content thousands of times greater than on-road diesel fuel.
We needed to know what the benefits are of cleaning up this fuel. Now we can evaluate the human health impacts of policies to require low-sulfur fuels for the shipping industry or that require ships to put emissions control technology on their vessels. Our study will help inform this policy debate.—James Winebrake
Up until recently, researchers had little information with which to work; emissions data for marine vessels had to be linked with data tracking the movement of these vessels around the world. In their report, Corbett and Winebrake mapped marine pollution concentrations over the oceans and on land, estimating global and regional mortalities from ship emissions by integrating global ship inventories, atmospheric models and health impacts analyses.
The focus on long-term exposure to particulate matter in this study does not extend to impacts on children or other related health issues such as respiratory disease, asthma, hospital emissions and the economic impact of missed workdays and lost productivity.
This study was supported in part by the Oak Foundation, the German Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft Deutscher Forschungszentren and by the German Aerospace Center within the Young Investigators Group SeaKLIM.
A separate study published in Environmental Science & Technology, also by Corbett and Winebrake, models the cost-effectiveness of control strategies for reducing SO2 emissions from US foreign commerce ships traveling in existing European or hypothetical US West Coast SOx Emission Control Areas (SECAs) under international maritime regulations.
The study found that compared to regulations prescribing low sulfur fuels, a performance-based policy can save up to $260 million for these ships with 80% more emission reductions than required because least-cost options on some individual ships outperform standards.
Optimal simulation of a market-based SO2 control policy for ~4,700 US foreign commerce ships traveling in the SECAs in 2002 shows that SECA emissions control targets can be achieved by scrubbing exhaust gas of one out of ten ships with annual savings up to $480 million over performance-based policy. A market-based policy could save the fleet ~$63 million annually under the best-estimate scenario.
(A hat-tip to Dick!)
James J. Corbett, James J. Winebrake, Erin H. Green, Prasad Kasibhatla, Veronika Eyring, and Axel Lauer. “Mortality from Ship Emissions: A Global Assessment” ASAP Environ. Sci. Technol., ASAP Article, 10.1021/es071686z
Chengfeng Wang, James J. Corbett, and James J. Winebrake. “Cost-Effectiveness of Reducing Sulfur Emissions from Ships”, ASAP Environ. Sci. Technol., ASAP Article, 10.1021/es070812w