Health and Economic Costs of Air Pollution
For years it has been known that there are higher mortality and morbidity rates in the Haifa Bay area. A new research study evaluates the economic price that the State of Israel pays for morbidity and mortality in the region from air pollution
Dr. Keren Agay-Shay, an environmental epidemiologist who heads the Health and Environment Laboratory at Bar-Ilan’s Azrieli Faculty of Medicine, and her colleagues, used medical records, information from the Central Bureau of Statistics, and air pollution data to calculate the extent to which air pollution caused by emissions from factories and transportation increases mortality and morbidity. Calculations of the number of attributable cases to the air pollution were then translated to the economic costs incurred by a loss of life, hospitalization, emergency visits, medication the loss of workdays and the like.
The study found that the costs of morbidity and mortality in the Haifa Bay area in 2015 ranged between NIS 561 million – 1.3 billion. Most of the morbidity resulted from exposure to nitrogen dioxides emitted from factories and vehicles. During the year, 87 people died from pollution emitted from transportation and 14 died from industrial pollution.
This is a very cautious assessment: some diseases have already been scientifically linked to air pollution but were not included in the calculations, and health damages caused by a secondary pollutant – such as soil and water pollution caused by air pollution – were not included in the study. Similarly, at the time that the study was conducted, the emission data did not include all the pollutants and all the existing emission sources. Dr. Agay-Shay notes that the main innovation in this study is the development of a tool for the government to calculate the direct cost of air pollution on health.