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Are current levels of air pollution in England too high? The impact of pollution on population mortality

  • John Henderson
  • Katharina Janke
  • Carol Propper

We examine the relationship between common sources of airborne pollution and population mortality in present day England. The current air quality limit values are low by both historical and international standards, and these are set at levels which are believed not to be harmful to health. We assess whether this view is correct. We use data at local authority level for the period 1998 to 2004 to examine whether current levels of airborne pollution, as measured by annual mean concentrations of carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter less than 10 μm in diameter (PM10) and ozone, are associated with excess deaths. We examine all cause mortality and deaths from specific cardiovascular and respiratory causes that are known to be exacerbated by air pollution. We exploit the panel nature of our data to control for any unobserved time-invariant associations at local authority level between high levels of pollution and poor population health and estimate multi-pollutant models to allow for the fact that three of the pollutants are closely correlated. We find higher levels of PM10 and ozone are associated with higher mortality rates. The size of the effects we find translates into around 4,500 deaths per annum.

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Paper provided by Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, LSE in its series CASE Papers with number case128.

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Date of creation: Dec 2007
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Handle: RePEc:cep:sticas:case128
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  1. Gerdtham, Ulf-G. & Johannesson, Magnus, 2003. "A note on the effect of unemployment on mortality," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(3), pages 505-518, May.
  2. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:115:y:2000:i:2:p:617-650 is not listed on IDEAS
  3. Kenneth Y. Chay & Michael Greenstone, 2003. "Air Quality, Infant Mortality, and the Clean Air Act of 1970," NBER Working Papers 10053, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Kenneth Y. Chay & Michael Greenstone, 1999. "The Impact of Air Pollution on Infant Mortality: Evidence from Geographic Variation in Pollution Shocks Induced by a Recession," NBER Working Papers 7442, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Christopher J. Ruhm, 1996. "Are Recessions Good For Your Health?," NBER Working Papers 5570, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Nancy Devlin & David Parkin, 2004. "Does NICE have a cost-effectiveness threshold and what other factors influence its decisions? A binary choice analysis," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(5), pages 437-452.
  7. Currie, Janet & Neidell, Matthew, 2004. "Air Pollution and Infant Health: What Can We Learn From California's Recent Experience?," IZA Discussion Papers 1056, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  8. Chay, Kenneth & Dobkin, Carlos & Greenstone, Michael, 2003. " The Clean Air Act of 1970 and Adult Mortality," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 27(3), pages 279-300, December.
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