Traffic-related air pollution linked to higher health care costs

·2 min read

Story at a glance

  • A new study published in the journal Atmospheric Environment associates a connection between air pollution and higher health care costs.

  • The study was conducted by scientists from the Environmental Defense Fund and the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research.

  • Researchers found the association was even more pronounced among people with cardiovascular disease.

Long-term exposure to traffic-related air pollution is connected to higher health care costs, according to a new study.

The study, published in the journal Atmospheric Environment, was crafted by scientists from the Environmental Defense Fund and Kaiser Permanente Division of Research.

Researchers analyzed data from their joint study of block-by-block air pollution in Oakland in addition to five years of electronic health records of over 25,000 members of Kaiser Permanente Northern California who were 65 years old or older, according to a release.

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The study found that small differences in concentrations of nitrogen dioxide, an air pollutant caused by traffic, resulted in increased health care costs among members.

“Street-level air quality data shines a light on pollution hotspots, enabling a better understanding of traffic-related air pollution’s impacts on health and associated costs within cities,” said Ananya Roy, Environmental Defense fund senior health scientist and an author of the study.

“We know reducing traffic-related air pollution presents an opportunity to protect public health. This new research suggests it could also help substantially reduce health care costs.”

In areas where concentrations of nitrogen dioxide are 5.9 parts per billion higher compared to a second area was linked to a 22 percent increase in emergency room costs and 5 percent increase in outpatient costs, according to the study.

Among residents with cardiovascular disease, the cost was even higher. Higher air pollution was connected to a 7 percent higher total of annual direct health care costs and 23 percent higher emergency room costs compared to other similar populations with less air pollution exposure, the study added.

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