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Airports, Air Pollution, and Contemporaneous Health

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  • Wolfram Schlenker
  • W. Reed Walker

Abstract

We link daily air pollution exposure to measures of contemporaneous health for communities surrounding the twelve largest airports in California. These airports are some of the largest sources of air pollution in the US, and they experience large changes in daily air pollution emissions depending on the amount of time planes spend idling on the tarmac. Excess airplane idling, measured as residual daily taxi time, is due to network delays originating in the Eastern US. This idiosyncratic variation in daily airplane taxi time significantly impacts the health of local residents, largely driven by increased levels of carbon monoxide (CO) exposure. We use this variation in daily airport congestion to estimate the population dose-response of health outcomes to daily CO exposure, examining hospitalization rates for asthma, respiratory, and heart-related emergency room admissions. A one standard deviation increase in daily pollution levels leads to an additional $540 thousand in hospitalization costs for respiratory and heart-related admissions for the 6 million individuals living within 10 km (6.2 miles) of the airports in California. These health effects occur at levels of CO exposure far below existing Environmental Protection Agency mandates, and our results suggest there may be sizable morbidity benefits from lowering the existing CO standard.

Suggested Citation

  • Wolfram Schlenker & W. Reed Walker, 2016. "Airports, Air Pollution, and Contemporaneous Health," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 83(2), pages 768-809.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:restud:v:83:y:2016:i:2:p:768-809.
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/restud/rdv043
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H0 - Public Economics - - General
    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics

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