New Study Finds Central Valley Air Pollution Costs Regional Economy $3 Billion Annually

The health-related impacts of air pollution in California’s San Joaquin Valley drains the region’s economy of $3 billion every year, according to a new study conducted by leading researchers in the fields of economics and air quality.

The study, funded by a grant from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, is the first one to put a price tag on air pollution in the Central Valley and demonstrate the potential benefits to public health and the economy that would come from attaining federal clean air standards.

Authored by Professors Jane Hall and Victor Brajer of California State University, Fullerton and Fred Lurmann, president of the research firm Sonoma Technology, Inc., the findings are based on the analysis of dozens of peer-reviewed economic and scientific studies.  The California Endowment also provided support for the dissemination of the research.

“This study shows how much is at stake for the people of the Central Valley who are living with the adverse health effects of air pollution in their region,” said Hal Harvey, Director of the Environment Program at the Hewlett Foundation. “The findings also indicate the enormous health and economic benefits of addressing the problem.”

The research was funded thorough the Hewlett Foundation’s New Constituencies for the Environment initiative, which focuses on the needs of communities whose environmental concerns have often been underrepresented.  This initiative recognizes that the growing ethnic communities in California’s Central Valley and greater Los Angeles bear a disproportionate burden of pollution in the state.  The Foundation is working to address this inequity by supporting research and strengthening environmental leadership in the region.

According to the study, the cost of air pollution in the Central Valley averages $1,000 per person per year, and represents the following:

  • 460 premature deaths among those age 30 and older
  • 23,300 asthma attacks
  • 188,000 days of school absences
  • 3,230 cases of acute bronchitis in children
  • 3,000 lost work days
  • 325 new cases of chronic bronchitis
  • 188,400 days of reduced activity in adults
  • 260 hospital admissions
  • More than 17,000 days of respiratory symptoms in children

The report indicates that some communities, including those with high populations of Latinos/Hispanics and African-Americans, are harder hit than others, and warns that the problem will become much worse if nothing is done.  The San Joaquin Valley’s current population of over three million residents is expected to grow by a third by 2020, with traffic and driving expected to increase at an even greater rate over time.

The full text of the study, “The Health and Related Economic Benefits of Attaining Healthful Air in the San Joaquin Valley” is available at: http://business.fullerton.edu/centers/iees/reports.htm

About CSU Fullerton’s Institute for Economic and Environmental Studies
The Institute for Economic and Environmental Studies at California State University, Fullerton, http://business.fullerton.edu/centers/iees/, issues regular economic forecasts, provides analysis-based policy advice on economic and environmental issues, and studies regional economic impacts. The institute undertakes independent studies, as well as contract research into the areas of its focus with private and public entities.  Professor Jane Hall is the Institute’s director.

About the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, http://www.hewlett.org, has been making grants since 1966 to help solve social and environmental problems at home and around the world.  The Foundation concentrates its resources on activities in education, environment, global development, performing arts, philanthropy, population, and makes grants to support disadvantaged communities in the San Francisco Bay Area.  A full list of all the Hewlett Foundation’s grants can be found at http://www.hewlett.org/grants.

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