Andrew Guarino / Gavel Media

BC Professors Find Fossil Fuels to be Catalyst of Deadly Air Pollution

A recent study conducted by members of Boston College and Harvard Medical School’s faculty mapped Massachusetts’ air pollution and its effects. Dissecting each town within the state, researchers accumulated quantitative data showcasing pollution’s effects on disease, death, and children's cognitive function. While each community differed in intensity, they all experienced the adverse impact of their state’s, and country’s, air pollution.

Using regional air-quality monitoring stations, the researchers collected and compiled data into a comprehensive map of the state. Overall, Massachusetts released almost one million tons of air pollutants in one year, while maintaining a pollution concentration above the number recommended by the World Health Organization.

In these findings, one thing is abundantly clear: “Virtually all of the air pollution produced in Massachusetts results from the combustion of fossil fuels. Massachusetts’ continuing heavy dependence on fossil fuels for power generation, heating and transport is sustained by multi-billion-dollar subsidies and tax breaks provided by state and federal governments to the fossil fuel industry.” 

The combustion of fossil fuels, a traditional and timeless practice, is to blame for the destruction of Massachusetts and its residents. The study estimates that 2,780 deaths in Massachusetts in 2019 were directly due to air pollution. Moreover, premature deaths occurred in almost every region of the state because of the tainted air. Another sobering statistic presented in the study is that an estimated 6.7 million people lose their lives annually due to air pollution across the globe, with the primary source being the combustion of fossil fuels.

Solving this problem, researchers say, means implementing “a massive, wide-scale transition away from all fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy.”

A movement supported by many, transitioning to clean energy seems like the obvious choice. Boston College, however, through the continuation of its investment in the fossil fuel industry, does not realize the disastrous effects of these practices. Fortunately, BC faculty themselves have proven how deadly fossil fuels are, and now it is up to the institution to decide.

With that in mind, the study concludes by saying, “It is now cheaper in many places to produce electricity from renewables than from any fossil fuel.” Perhaps that is the sentence this state and country need to finally move toward divestment from the harmful industry of fossil fuels.


Spends too much time on crossword puzzles. Can make a mean chocolate chip pancake. Proponent of eating the casing on brie.