By Jen Kinney.

In the U.S., nearly as many people die every year as a result of air pollution as they do in alcohol-related car crashes: 9,320 compared to 10,076. According to a new study, those lives could be saved by tightening up air quality regulations just a little bit. Researchers at the American Thoracic Society (ATS) and Marron Institute of Urban Management at New York University found that reducing two types of air pollution — ozone and particulate matter — to levels below the Environmental Protection Agency’s current standards would not only keep people alive, but also avoid the risk of 21,400 serious health conditions.

The study breaks down the potential impacts city by city, to show where decreases in air pollution could result in the biggest gains in public health. A related searchable databaseshows whether cities are meeting the current EPA mandates and how many deaths and “adverse health events” could be avoided if those cities switched to the stricter standards that ATS recommends. Of the 483 counties with sufficient data on the topic, the study found that 14 percent did not meet the ATS’s recommended standard for particulate matter. Of the 715 counties with sufficient data on ozone levels, 91 percent did not meet ATS standards.

Los Angeles, Riverside (California), Pittsburgh, Phoenix and New York top the list for highest potential gains. Lead author Kevin Cromar told NBC News the cities that stand to gain the most are “those with the highest levels of pollution and the largest populations.” That is, heavily populated cities with moderate pollution would see more of an impact than small cities with higher pollution.

(Credit: American Thoracic Society)

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Read the full story at Next City.