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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Columbia: Study Highlights High Cost of Fossil Fuel Pollution on Children’s Health

A study by researchers at the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH) at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health is the first to compile the estimated per-case costs of 6 childhood health conditions linked to air pollution — estimates that can be incorporated into climate change mitigation policies. Results are in the journal Environmental Research.

The study reports case-specific monetary estimates for preterm birth, low birth weight, asthma, autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) disorder, and IQ (intelligence quotient) reduction in children — which scientific evidence shows are among the known or likely health consequences of prenatal and early childhood exposure to air pollution, 80 percent of which is attributable to burning of coal, oil, diesel and gas.

The researchers conducted a systematic review of the scientific literature published between January 2000 and June 2018. They reviewed papers from the U.S. and UK and identified estimates of the lost lifetime earnings associated with the loss of a single IQ point.

The study cites previously published estimates ranging from $23,573 for childhood asthma not persisting into adulthood to $3.1M for a case of autism with a concurrent intellectual disability. The authors prioritized monetary estimates that factored in both immediate medical costs and longer-term societal costs.

“Impacts on children’s health are generally under-represented in benefits assessments related to environmental pollution,” says co-author Dr. Frederica Perera, professor of environmental health sciences and director of translational research at CCCEH. “Policies to clean our air and address the serious problem of climate change will yield numerous benefits for children’s health and the financial health of families and our nation.”

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