If you’ve ever wondered about the health costs of air pollution, a Cal State Fullerton economist has an answer: $22 billion for the South Coast air basin, which includes Orange County.
Jane V. Hall, a professor who specializes in environmental economics, looked at a variety of data to add up costs to the South Coast and San Joaquin air basins — both consistently among the dirtiest in the nation.
She and co-authors Victor Brajer and Fred Lurmann found that the South Coast basin, including parts of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties, and all of Orange County, would save $22 billion in health costs if state and federal health standards were met for ozone and fine particle pollution.
South Coast and San Joaquin combined would save $28 billion; in the two regions, air pollution is believed to contribute to 3,800 premature deaths a year. Cleaning up the air, the researchers said, would save more lives than reducing traffic deaths to zero in most of the counties studied.
They said pollution-related deaths are more than double those from car accidents in Los Angeles County.
“There’s a clear consensus among experts: lives in fact are shortened and people are made sick by pollution,” Hall said Wednesday. “Kids miss school, there are more non-fatal heart attacks, work days lost and so on.”
The $90,000 study, paid for by the Hewlett Foundation, captures the cost to families of missed days of work because of illness related to air pollution, sick leave paid by employers, costs to HMOs and insurance companies from hospital treatments, and premature deaths, among other costs.
For people who live in the South Coast air basin, it boils down to $1,250 per person per year.
The report focused on two high priority pollutants, ozone and fine particles. A breakdown for Orange County shows a cost savings of $56 million if the standards for ozone are achieved, and $2.8 billion for attaining fine particle standards.
The federal target date for the South Coast basin to reduce fine particle pollution — particles 2.5 microns in size or less — is 2015; to hit the ozone standard, 2024.
Although the South Coast Air Quality Management District uses different methods for assessing the health costs for air pollution, Hall’s findings appear to be consistent with the air district’s analysis, spokesman Sam Atwood said.
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