A new report by the American Lung Association is making a strong case for zero-emission vehicles by the year 2040. Last week the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease released “Zeroing in on Healthy Air” which outlines the broad benefits of the transition to a zero-emission transportation sector over the coming decades. 

“This transition to zero-emission transportation and electricity will benefit all Americans. But it's especially important in communities burdened by nearby sources of harmful pollution today, and these are often lower-income communities and communities of color,” says Will Barrett, national senior director of advocacy, clean air, for the American Lung Association and “Zeroing in on Healthy Air” report author.

The Biden Administration has made a fervent push toward reducing the country's greenhouse gas pollution and ushering in a new era of zero-emission transportation. The report by the Lung Association delves into why that’s immediately necessary and the potential health and climate benefits of making all new passenger vehicles sold zero-emission by 2035, and all-new heavy-duty vehicles sold zero-emission by 2040. Those familiar with the ramifications of climate change understand that this goal will have an outstanding impact on communities with large Black and Brown populations. The report identifies 10 in its findings.

Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA; New York-Newark, NY-NJ-CT-PA; Chicago-Naperville, IL-IN-WI; San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA; Philadelphia-Reading-Camden, PA-NJ-DE-MD; Washington-Baltimore-Arlington, DC-MD-VA-WV-PA; Miami-Port St. Lucie-Fort Lauderdale, FL; Houston-The Woodlands, TX; Detroit-Warren-Ann Arbor, MI; Dallas-Fort Worth, TX-OK are the top 10 metro areas that would benefit the most from a transition to electric vehicles between 2020 and 2050.

“The shift to zero-emission transportation and electricity generation will save lives and generate massive health benefits across the United States,” says Harold Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association. “It is critical that we ensure these benefits are realized in the near term in communities most impacted by harmful pollution today.”

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, based on data from a 2021 CDC report, Non-Hispanic African Americans were 40 percent more likely to have asthma than non-Hispanic whites. Pollution, breathing in dirty air, remains a leading factor, particularly for those living below poverty lines.  A widespread transition to electric vehicles could disrupt these numbers, generating more than $1.2 trillion in health benefits and $1.7 trillion in additional climate benefits by 2050. The report suggests that 110,000 deaths could be avoided and 2.79 million asthma attacks could be thwarted. 

“Zero-emission transportation is a win-win for public health,” says Wimmer, “Too many communities across the U.S. deal with high levels of dangerous pollution from nearby highways and trucking corridors, ports, warehouses, and other pollution hot spots. Plus, the transportation sector is the nation’s biggest source of carbon pollution that drives climate change and associated public health harms. This is an urgent health issue for millions of people in the U.S.”