Toxic Exposure in America: Estimating Fetal and Infant Health Outcomes

Nikhil Agarwal, Chanont Banternghansa, Linda Bui

NBER Working Paper No. 14977
Issued in May 2009
NBER Program(s):   EEE

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.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w14977

Published: Toxic Exposure in America: Estimating Fetal and Infant Health Outcomes From 14 Years of TRI Reporting with Chanont Banternghansa and Linda Bui Journal of Health Economics, July 2010

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