The 150 Billion Dollar per Year Problem
One can argue that the costs of particulate pollution due to woodsmoke
$150 billion dollars per year. This page will develop that
The argument was
inspired by the assertion that the the Clean Air Act of 1970 saves
$650 billion dollars per year that appeared on page 504 of "Collapse"
by Jared Diamond2. He arrived
at that figure by
taking the estimated number of lives saved as a result of the Clean Air
multiplying by $5 million which is the figure he uses for the "Value of
a Single Life" (VSL).
Using that methodology, one could say that Particulate Pollution in the
form of wood
costs $150 billion dollars per year from lost of life.
The above calculation is based on (1) the estimate by Joel Swartz that
60,000 premature deaths in the United States are caused by
Particulate Pollution per year, (2) the estimate that
approximate 50% of the the Particulate Pollution is wood smoke, and
(3) the suggestion by Swartz the effects of Particulate Pollution
linear, i. e., increase the amount of pollution by x percent and the
number of deaths increase by x percent.
That yields 30,000 premature deaths in the US per year traceable to
wood smoke. Multiply that figure by the $5 million, the VSL.
There are, of course, many studies suggesting ways to estimate VSL and
surprisingly there is a wide range of figures that result. In
fact, I have seen numbers ranging from $1 million to $8 million.
See Brannon1 for a very intelligible survey (pdf 112KB).A section of his paper entitled "Is there a Consensus" he notes (1) Kip Viscusi of Harvard, one of the leading authorities in the field concluded that the number was closer to $7 million, (2) Leeth and Ruser estimate a VSL in the range of $2.6 to $4.7 million, and (3) The Environmental Protection Agency currently uses a mean value of $6.3 million for its cost-benefit analysis, and (4) Every regulation issued by the epa that spent less than $8 million to save a life has been approved.
Note that the above argument does not take into account any costs associated with medical expenses or lost wages due to illness induced by the pollution For a look at some of those issues see Societal Costs.
An interesting side observation is that Diamond's figure of 130,000
deaths per year due to air pollution suggests that Particulate
Pollution accounts for 46% and wood smoke accounts for 23%. Those
cozy evenings in front of the fire with a glass of wine are indeed
James Isaac, "What is a Life
Worth?" . Regulation, Vol. 27, No. 4, pp. 60-63, Winter 2004 http://ssrn.com/abstract=654544
2. Diamond, Jared. Collapse
How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. New York: Viking,
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