Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Pollution and Fatality Rates

A recent article in Epidemiology arrives at the following conclusion:

Women who live within 50 meters of busy roads face an increased risk of dying from a heart attack, stroke or other cardiopulmonary cause, according to a new study.
Exposure to particulate matter -- the tiny particles emitted by automobiles, especially diesel vehicles -- is probably the cause for their increased mortality, Dr. H.-Erich Wichmann, director of the Institute of Epidemiology of the GSF-National Research Center for Environment and Health in Neuherberg, Germany, told Reuters Health.

The key word in the above paragraph is "probably". As economists we would like to think that the authors controlled for all the other factors that can affect mortality.

It is likely that women who live close to busy main roads share other characteristics. Does the study control for income? Certainly in the UK the better off tend to live away from busy roads. What else is income correlated with? The propensity to smoke cigarettes, the quality of diet, whether your partner smokes etc. All these factors need to be controlled for if we are to believe these results. However, at face value we should perhaps not be surprised by the findings.

In a related piece of work I am presenting a paper at the European Association of Labour Economists (EALE) conference in Prague this week:

Cole, M.A., Elliott, R.J.R. and Lindley, J. (2006). Dirty Money: Is there a Wage Premium for Working in a Pollution Intensive Industry. [Abstract]

Our results show that there is a small wage premium for employees working in dirty industries. Talking of which, I had better start preparation on my talk.

Link to the EALE programme where there are a few Value of Statistical Life papers in addition to our own (see previous post on this topic for more information).

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