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Toxic Exposure in America: Estimating Fetal and Infant Health Outcomes


  • Nikhil Agarwal
  • Chanont Banternghansa
  • Linda Bui


We examine the effect of exposure to toxic releases that are tracked by the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) on county-level infant and fetal mortality rates in the United States between 1989-2002. We find significant adverse effects of TRI concentrations on infant mortality rates, but not on fetal mortality rates. In particular, we estimate that the average county-level decrease in aggregate TRI concentrations saved in excess of 25,000 infant lives from 1989-2002. Using a value of life of $1.8M - $8.7M, the savings in lives would be valued at $45B - $217.5B. We also find that the effect of toxic exposure on health outcomes varies across pollution media: air pollution has a larger impact on health outcomes than either water or land. And, within air pollution, releases of carcinogens are particularly problematic for infant health outcomes. We do not, however, find any significant effect on health outcomes from exposure to two criteria air pollutants -- PM10 and ozone.

Suggested Citation

  • Nikhil Agarwal & Chanont Banternghansa & Linda Bui, 2009. "Toxic Exposure in America: Estimating Fetal and Infant Health Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 14977, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14977
    Note: EEE

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Janet Currie & Matthew Neidell, 2005. "Air Pollution and Infant Health: What Can We Learn from California's Recent Experience?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(3), pages 1003-1030.
    2. Hyslop, Dean R & Imbens, Guido W, 2001. "Bias from Classical and Other Forms of Measurement Error," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 19(4), pages 475-481, October.
    3. Kenneth Y. Chay & Michael Greenstone, 2003. "The Impact of Air Pollution on Infant Mortality: Evidence from Geographic Variation in Pollution Shocks Induced by a Recession," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(3), pages 1121-1167.
    4. H. Spencer Banzhaf & Randall P. Walsh, 2008. "Do People Vote with Their Feet? An Empirical Test of Tiebout," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(3), pages 843-863, June.
    5. Orley Ashenfelter & Michael Greenstone, 2004. "Using Mandated Speed Limits to Measure the Value of a Statistical Life," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(S1), pages 226-267, February.
    6. Kenneth Y. Chay & Michael Greenstone, 2003. "Air Quality, Infant Mortality, and the Clean Air Act of 1970," Working Papers 0406, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research.
    7. Kahn, Matthew E., 2004. "Domestic pollution havens: evidence from cancer deaths in border counties," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(1), pages 51-69, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ball, Alastair, 2014. "Air pollution, foetal mortality, and long-term health: Evidence from the Great London Smog," MPRA Paper 63229, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 25 Mar 2015.
    2. Janet Currie & Lucas Davis & Michael Greenstone & Reed Walker, 2013. "Do Housing Prices Reflect Environmental Health Risks? Evidence from More than 1600 Toxic Plant Openings and Closings," NBER Working Papers 18700, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Deokrye Baek & Duha T. Altindag & Naci Mocan, 2015. "Chinese Yellow Dust and Korean Infant Health," NBER Working Papers 21613, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Pamela Campa, "undated". "Press and Leaks: Do Newspapers Reduce Toxic Emissions?," Working Papers 2015-10, Department of Economics, University of Calgary, revised 01 Jul 2015.

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    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • Q51 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Valuation of Environmental Effects

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