(NEW YORK) -- Nearly three million asthma attacks in children could be prevented by 2050 if the United States transitioned to electric vehicles and clean power, according to a new report published Wednesday.
Researchers from the American Lung Association (ALA) say these goals would also avert millions of other respiratory symptoms and save hundreds of infant lives over the next two-and-a-half decades.
"That [zero-emission] future, it's really important for lung health, both because emissions from dirty sources of transportation and electricity are harming our lungs right now and also because it's critical for addressing climate change," Laura Kate Bender, assistant vice president of Nationwide Healthy Air for the ALA, told ABC News.
Asthma, which is chronic inflammation of the lung airways, affects about 4.6 million children in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Symptoms -- including cough, tightness in the chest, shortness of breath and wheezing -- led to more than 270,000 emergency department visits and more than 27,000 hospital inpatient stays among children in 2020, the CDC said.
The report looked at the potential impacts if all new passenger cars sold were zero-emission by 2035, all new trucks were zero-emission by 2040 and the electric grid will be powered by clean, non-combustion energy by 2035.
By 2050, the U.S. would prevent up to 2.79 million pediatric asthma attacks and 147,000 pediatric acute bronchitis cases, the study said.
Additionally, there would be 2.67 million pediatric upper respiratory symptoms and 1.87 million pediatric lower respiratory symptoms prevented as well as 508 infant mortality cases.
Bender noted that children are at a greater risk, both from air pollution and from climate change. Their still-developing lungs are more likely to suffer life-long impacts from exposure to air pollution, researchers said.
The report also found that every state in the continental U.S. would see asthma attacks prevented among children with California seeing the biggest drop at more than 440,000.
These potential health benefits are just estimates and made under the assumption that certain wide-ranging climate goals are met, Bender said.
"We would call that ambitious but achievable," he added. "We know that there's a lot of progress already being made, both at the federal level and in many key states to get toward these goals."
She continued, "There's lots of investment happening across the country, in electricity, in electric vehicle infrastructure, and so we're using this report to call for more to call for the finalization of strong standards that help us get closer to the zero-emission future."
Bender said at the federal level, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is close to finalizing two new sets of standards, one that would make future cars and medium-duty vehicles cleaner and one that would make future heavy-duty vehicles, such as trucks and buses, more green.
Additionally, the ALA is encouraging state-level lawmakers to have their states adopt standards to transition to zero-emission vehicles.
"Climate change is a health emergency, but it's also a health opportunity," Bender said. "We know that we need to reduce these emissions from vehicles and electricity urgently to address the climate crisis, but it's also an opportunity because at the same time -- as we're switching away from those sources of greenhouse gas emissions -- we also can clean up the other pollution that comes from gas- and diesel-powered vehicles and from fossil fuel fire powered plants. So we really see this as a win-win."
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