Reduced sulfur in shipping fuels projected to provide health and climate benefits through reduced air pollution

In three years, the shipping industry should have completed its transition to low-sulfur fuels per an International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulation. A new study believes this shift will not just reduce air pollution but also save many lives, reported a NewsWise article.

The international study investigated the effects of sulfur emitted by ships using current marine fuels. Sulfur-rich fuel generates air pollution particles that enter the lungs and harm human health.

The effects of ship air pollution are keenly felt by densely populated communities near heavily-trafficked maritime routes. Brazil, China, Panama, and Singapore are at great risk, as are coastal settlements throughout Asia, Africa, and South America.

“Essentially, we document how much health benefit to expect from the 2020 adoption of cleaner ship fuels,” said Professor James Corbett, author of the study. (Related: Climate intervention strategies pushed by climate change alarmists may COLLAPSE the entire Amazon rainforest, warn scientists.)

Global ship pollution causes 14 million cases of childhood asthma every year. The research team estimated these cases would drop by 50 percent once the shipping industry shifts to cleaner fuels.

Furthermore, shipping pollution caused 400,000 premature deaths from lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. Cleaner fuels could prevent one-third of these deaths.

Cleaner fuel saves lives

The study created its global model of ship traffic by accessing satellite records showing ship activity and pollution. The model was adjusted to account for the predicted growth rates of ship emissions in 2020.

Researchers also developed a separate high-resolution model to determine the following:

  • The way ship emissions mix and change in the atmosphere
  • Dispersal of ship emissions
  • Effects of ship emissions on air quality in populated areas

The team analyzed the ways ship pollution raised disease risk in exposed populations. They paid particular attention to communities located on the coast along big shipping routes and far inland.

“Our results show that these regulations are beneficial, but also that more air pollution health benefits remain possible with less-polluting ships,” said James Winebrake, a dean at Rochester Institute of Technology.

The IMO regulation lowered the permitted amount of sulfur in fuel oil from 3.5 percent to just 0.5 percent. The refining and shipping industries are expected to adopt the appropriate technologies in anticipation of the new fuels.

Consumers will pay for these costs through purchased goods. But the cost is worth the improvement in global health, said Professor Corbett.

“Cleaner ships fuels help people who don’t have an economic role in the pollution they are suffering, some in places that aren’t engaged in trade at all, as well as communities located along major shipping lanes,” he explained.

More work to be done

The shipping industry is just one sector of the global economy. For example, the 400,000 lung cancer- and cardiovascular disease-related fatalities attributed to shipping pollution constituted only seven or eight percent of the deaths caused by air pollution.

The study proposed that a truly global effort be undertaken to reduce air pollution levels. Other sectors should match the shipping industry’s efforts and undertake their own programs to cut back on their emissions.

“This means more attention may be needed to reduce greenhouse gases across all sectors of the global economy,” said climate researcher Mikhail Sofiev.

Furthermore, expected growth in global trade will bolster shipping activity. Even using the cleaner fuels, the increasing number of active ships will continue to belch a harmful amount of air pollution.

To this end, the study reminded readers that low-sulfur marine fuels will still cause 250,000 deaths and 6.4 million childhood asthma cases every year. If those tragic statistics are to be eliminated, it might be necessary to implement even stricter regulations on shipping fuels.

For a whiff of fresh news on pollution, visit

Sources include:

comments powered by Disqus