Toxic Exposure in America: Estimating Fetal and Infant Health Outcomes
NBER Working Paper No. 14977
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.