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Risk-Cost Analysis for the Regulation of Airborne Toxic Substances in a Developing Context: The Case of Arsenic in Chile


  • R. O'Ryan
  • M. Díaz


Most developing countries are just beginning to takeenvironmental protection seriously. In some cases it is common tocopy regulations from developed countries; however, determininghow much protection is required is difficult, ideally requiringthat the costs and risks be considered to propose a realistic andeffective policy. Chile has serious problems with arsenicpollution associated to emissions from its copper smelters. Toregulate these emissions, a strict ambient concentrationstandard, applicable to the whole country, is being proposed thatreduces risks to an acceptable level. However, little is knownabout the exposure and health effects associated to currentemission levels, and the corresponding costs of reducingemissions. The results of a three-year project that combinesengineering, economics and health information sheds light onthese costs and risks for different values of ambient standards.These show that there are ``win--win'' options that obtainsignificant health improvements at low, even negative, costs.However, costs quickly increase as the concentration standardbecomes more stringent, with few additional health benefits. Inmany locations naturally high background levels of arsenic makeit very costly or even impossible to reach the desired goal.These results make it necessary to examine the use of a case-by-caseregulation for each source, rather than a general one basedon a unique ambient quality goal. They also suggest that copyingstandards or risk criteria used in developed contexts can beextremely expensive. Copyright Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Suggested Citation

  • R. O'Ryan & M. Díaz, 2000. "Risk-Cost Analysis for the Regulation of Airborne Toxic Substances in a Developing Context: The Case of Arsenic in Chile," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 15(2), pages 115-134, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:enreec:v:15:y:2000:i:2:p:115-134
    DOI: 10.1023/A:1008300206313

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Van Houtven, George & Cropper, Maureen L., 1996. "When is a Life Too Costly to Save? The Evidence from U.S. Environmental Regulations," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 348-368, May.
    2. O'Ryan, Raul E., 1996. "Cost-Effective Policies to Improve Urban Air Quality in Santiago, Chile," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 302-313, November.
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