Pollution Havens and the Trade in Toxic Chemicals: Evidence from U.S. Trade Flows
Does increased environmental protection decrease the emission of pollutants or merely displace them? Using newly available trade data, this study examines the flows of a panel of chemicals designated as toxic by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). Estimates from a differences-in-differences model indicate a significant increase in net imports when a chemical is listed on TRI, which suggests production offshoring. Furthermore, I find that increased imports due to this “pollution haven effect” are sourced disproportionately from poorer countries, which are likely to have lower environmental protection standards. At the same time, I observe the bulk of American trade in toxic chemicals occurs with other wealthy countries, which may be attributed to the capital intensity of chemical production.
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