The American Lung Association in California (ALAC) recently released a report evaluating the health impacts of various smart growth initiatives in California, including the implementation of high speed rail plans and the state’s Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act (SB 375). The report found that implementing these strategies would cut California air pollution by 132,000 tons, avoiding 104,000 premature deaths, 105,000 asthma attacks and other respiratory ailments, and 16,550 work days lost. In total, these strategies would save $1.66 billion in health costs per year by 2035.

SB 375 requires the adoption of greenhouse gas emission reduction targets to help curb urban sprawl and promote compact, transit-oriented, walkable, and bicycle-friendly cities. This report only looked at related benefits of improved air quality, but smart growth strategies have other health benefits including safety improvements and increased physical activity – leading to reduced rates of diabetes, obesity, heart, and lung disease, cancers and other chronic illnesses.

"If doctors and other health experts designed our cities, they would look quite different than the sprawling communities we see today," said Dr. Sonal R. Patel, ALAC Board Member. "Cities would provide more healthy choices, more opportunities for walking and biking, better access to transit, less congestion, more housing close to workplaces and more parks for kids and families to enjoy."

The study comes just before the California Air Resources Board votes on September 23, 2010 to establish regional greenhouse gas reduction targets, the next step in implementing SB 375.

To learn more about the health costs of vehicle dependent communities, click here .