U.S. environmental regulators on Tuesday finalized engine and fuel standards for U.S. flagged ships to cut emissions that cause lung diseases and save more than $100 billion in health costs.

By 2030 the strategy should cut annual emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOX) from large oil tankers, cargo ships and cruise vessels by about 1.2 million tons and particulate matter emissions, or soot, by about 143,000 tons, the Environmental Protection Agency said.

When fully implemented, the effort will reduce NOX emissions from ships by 80 percent, and particulate emissions by 85 percent, compared to current emissions.

The EPA estimates that in 2030, the standards will prevent between 12,000 and 31,000 premature deaths and 1.4 million work days lost.

Annual health benefits in 2030 should be worth between $110 billion and $270 billion, compared to compliance costs of only about $3.1 billion, the EPA said.

Stronger standards will help make large ships cleaner and more efficient, and protect millions of Americans from harmful diesel emissions, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a release.

An environmentalist agreed. Frankly, it is hard to find a better deal in the public health world, Rich Kassel, the director of clean fuels and vehicles at the Natural Resources Defense Council said in a blog on Tuesday.

The EPA is also working with international organizations to control emissions from non-U.S. flagged ships.

The International Maritime Organization, a United Nations agency, is set to vote in March next year on the adoption of the joint U.S.-Canada buffer zone, which would result in stringent standards for large foreign-flagged and domestic ships operating within the designated area.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by David Gregorio)