Thursday, November 13, 2008

The High Cost of Air Pollution

Bad air costing state's economy billions
Jane Kay, SF Chronicle, November 13, 2008

California has the worst air in the country, and 20 million people living in the dirtiest regions account for billions of dollars a year in economic losses because of premature death, chronic illness, hospitalizations and missed school and workdays, according to a new study.

The cost of air pollution in the Los Angeles Basin and San Joaquin Valley - which are the top violators of the federal Clean Air Act - is estimated at $28 billion a year. But because the state's economy is closely integrated, the costs in these hubs of manufacturing, shipping, entertainment and agriculture put a damper on all of California, the researchers found. The financial burden on families, hospitals, health maintenance organizations and employers from premature deaths and respiratory and heart problems in the two regions - home to more than half the state's population - fans out to the rest of state, the economists found.

The study found that in the San Joaquin Valley, the cost of air pollution comes to more than $1,600 per person per year, which would translate into a total of nearly $8 billion in savings if federal ozone and particulate matter standards were met. In the Southern California counties, the cost is more than $1,250 per person per year, nearly $22 billion in savings if the standards were met, the study said.

The research team includes Cal State Fullerton economics professors Jane Hall and Victor Brajer, plus Frederick Lurmann, manager of exposure assessment studies at Sonoma Technology Inc. in Petaluma. The $90,000 study, peer-reviewed by scientists at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, was financed by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The researchers said they used data and methodology widely accepted by the Environmental Protection Agency and other experts.

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