FRIDAY, March 29 (HealthDay News) -- New standards for cleaner fuel and vehicles proposed Friday will reduce air pollution and help prevent thousands of deaths and hospitalizations each year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says.

The EPA's proposals to slash emissions of harmful pollutants include reducing smog-forming volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides by 80 percent, reducing fuel vapor emissions to near zero and cutting vehicle emissions of toxic air pollutants, such as benzene and 1,3-butadiene, by up to 40 percent. A 70 percent tighter particulate matter standard is also recommended.

These "common-sense" standards are an "example of how we can protect the environment and public health in an affordable and practical way," EPA acting administrator Bob Perciasepe said in an agency news release.

By 2030, the new regulations will help prevent up to 2,400 premature deaths, 23,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children, and 3,200 hospital admissions and asthma-related emergency room visits a year, the EPA estimates.

Each year, the new rules will also prevent 1.8 million lost school days, work days and days when activities are restricted because of air pollution.

The health-related benefits will total between $8 billion and $23 billion a year, according to the EPA news release.

The regulations also would reduce pollution exposure near roads. More than 50 million Americans live, work or go to school close to high-traffic roads.

The EPA estimates that the new rules would provide up to $7 in health benefits for every dollar spent to meet the standards, which will have an average cost of about $130 per vehicle in 2025.

The agency will accept public comment and hold public meetings on the proposed standards, which were developed with input from states, the auto and oil and gas industries, and environmental, consumer and public health organizations.

The new regulations are designed to be implemented over the same period as the next phase of EPA's program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks. That phase begins in model year 2017.

More information

The Union of Concerned Scientists has more about vehicles and air pollution.