Bad Air, Costly Care

Nancy Folbre
27 October 2018

On the nexus between environmental degradation and care costs.

Traffic-related air pollution has particularly adverse health effects on young children, including greater vulnerability to asthma. In a recent podcast, my UMass colleague Sylvia Brandt explains the psychological and economic burden of family care for children with asthma–a striking example of the nexus between environmental degradation and care costs. 

One way to estimate costs is ask how much parents would be willing to pay to lower the incidence of their children’s asthma (a  “contingent valuation approach). Another approach is to estimate the amount of time parents are forced to stay home and reallocate their time from other uses to child care (an  “opportunity cost” approach). Brandt emphasizes that few risk assessments of traffic-related air pollution fully account for care costs. As a result, they underestimate the economic benefits of environmental regulation. As the Director General of the World Health Organization puts it in  The Guardian, “air pollution is the new tobacco.” The first  global conference on this general topic is set for next week.

The graphic above, winner of an Art for Asthma contest in 2009, is used here by the grace of Creative Commons

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