Environment and Health

Paper Session

Friday, Jan. 6, 2017 2:30 PM – 4:30 PM

Hyatt Regency Chicago, Acapulco
Hosted By: American Economic Association
  • Chair: Meredith Fowlie, University of California-Berkeley

Transboundary Pollution in South-East Asia: The Impact on Air Quality and Health in Singapore From the Forest Burning in Indonesia

Tamara Sheldon
,
University of South Carolina
Chandini Sankaran
,
University of South Carolina

Abstract

Forest burning in Indonesia results in severe episodes of “seasonal haze” in neighboring Singapore. We offer the first causal analysis of the transboundary health effects of the Indonesian forest burning. Using a two-stage approach and instrumenting for air pollution with satellite fire data, we estimate the impacts of the Indonesian fires on Singaporean polyclinic attendances for acute upper respiratory tract infections and acute conjunctivitis. We also estimate the change in electricity demand in Singapore attributable to the fires, finding that demand increases as people respond to haze episodes by staying indoors. We estimate partial health and avoidance costs of US$333 million from January 2010 to June 2016. Our estimates suggest avoidance behavior is significant, accounting for over three quarters of our estimate. JEL Codes: D62, I1, Q23, Q51, Q53.

Congestion Pricing and Children's Health

Emilia Simeonova
,
Johns Hopkins University
Janet M. Currie
,
Princeton University
Peter Nilsson
,
IIES-Stockholm University
Reed Walker
,
University of California-Berkeley

Abstract

We examine the effects of a congestion tax in central Stockholm on ambient air pollution and children’s health. The tax reduced ambient air pollution by 5 to 10 percent, and this reduction led to a significant decrease in the rate of acute asthma attacks among children 0 to 5. The change in asthma is more gradual than the change in pollution, which may be due to the fact that health is a stock. Given the sluggish adjustment of the health stock to pollution changes, short-run estimates of the program effects may understate the long run health benefits of the program. JEL Codes: I12, Q51, Q53.

Does Forest Loss Increase Human Disease? Evidence From 21st Century Nigeria

Julia Berazneva
,
Middlebury College
Tanya Byker
,
Middlebury College

Abstract

The loss of tropical forests is of particular concern to human health. Mounting scientific evidence demonstrates a complex chain of ecological changes after forest clearing that magnifies the risk of mosquito-borne disease outbreaks, including malaria, Yellow fever, dengue, and more recently Zika virus. Links between deforestation and the incidence of human malaria have been shown, for example, in Brazil (Olson et al. 2010) and in Malaysia (Fornace et al. 2016). To our knowledge, however, only one paper provides causal evidence from Indonesia (Garg 2015). We extend this new literature to study the links between deforestation, malaria, and child and maternal health in Nigeria that lost nearly 80 percent of its primary forest. Nigeria is home to one-fifth of Africa’s population, 97 percent of whom are at risk for malaria. An estimated 100 million malaria cases are reported annually, with over 300,000 annual deaths due to the disease (US Embassy 2011). We estimate the causal impact of deforestation on several measures of child and maternal health and mortality using temporal and spatial variation of deforestation from 1990 to 2013. Our estimation strategy involves geolinking a new high-resolution dataset of global forest change based on time-series analysis of Landsat images at a spatial resolution of 30 meters (Hansen et al. 2013) to household-level health data from the Nigerian Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) from 1990, 2003, 2008, 2010, and 2013. We use several empirical strategies to identify the impact of deforestation on malaria outbreaks, taking into account endogenous location and confounding economic trends. A growing body of literature demonstrates the causal link between malnutrition and health with performance in school and later in the labor market (Strauss and Thomas 1998; Glewwe and Miguel 2008). We are able to assess such longer-term impacts of environmental changes on human health and wellbeing. Q56,Q23,I15.

Shale Gas Development and Drinking Water Quality

Elaine Hill
,
University of Rochester
Lala Ma
,
University of Kentucky

Abstract

US energy and environmental health policy lacks critically needed information regarding the economic, environmental, health and social implications of rapidly expanding unconventional oil and natural gas drilling operations, most notably shale gas development (SGD). Although these operations have created jobs and brought needed income to rural communities, there is concern over whether these operations could threaten health by contaminating local water supplies and air quality. A question that has yet to be explored is whether SGD systematically affects health through the medium of drinking water. This paper empirically tests whether SGD activity impacts drinking water quality in Pennsylvania. We do this by combining several sources of data, which allow us to relate SGD to public drinking water violations through a gas well’s (or waste facility’s) proximity to a Public Water System’s (PWS) ground and/or surface water source intake areas. We estimate a set of PWS fixed-effects models that examine the impact of “threats” faced by the PWS, defined as the presence of gas wells within 1 km of a system’s source water intake, on a number of outcomes that measure drinking water quality, including 1) Total Number of Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) exceedances, 2) Coliform violations (unlikely to be related to the industry), and 3) MCL violations that are likely to be associated with the industry. We also estimate models using the water quality monitoring and PWS sampling data as dependent variables to capture changes in water quality that may not be large enough to receive an MCL violation. Furthermore, we exploit elevation to study models using quasi-experimental variation stemming from up- and down-gradient threats. Our results not only inform policy-makers who set and enforce health-protective standards for the industry, but researchers who study the mechanisms of pollutant exposure to better understand how these operations affect health in their communities.
Discussant(s)
Alberto Salvo
,
National University of Singapore
Nicholas J. Sanders
,
Cornell University
Jennifer Alix-Garcia
,
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Lucija Muehlenbachs
,
University of Calgary
JEL Classifications
  • I1 - Health
  • Q5 - Environmental Economics