University of Delaware
delware environmental institute

Study finds cleaner ship fuels will benefit health but bring climate trade-offs

Marine shipping fuels will get a whole lot cleaner in 2020 when a regulation by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) requires fuels to contain 80-86 percent less sulphur. This is the most significant improvement in global fuel standards for the shipping industry in 100 years, intended to achieve significant health benefits on a global scale. Now, a new study in Nature Communications quantifies these health benefits and finds cleaner shipping fuels will result in a 3.6 percent reduction of childhood asthma globally.

The study was led by University of Delaware’s James Corbett, and included an international team of researchers from the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI), Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in New York and Energy and Environmental Research Associates.

The team studied the impacts of sulphur emitted by ships using current marine fuels, which produce air pollution particles that are small enough to be breathed deeply into the lungs and are considered harmful to human health.

Ship air pollution effects are greatest in areas where heavily travelled ship routes exist in, and next to, densely populated communities.  Some key regions include China, Singapore, Panama, Brazil and coastlines of Asia, Africa and South America.