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Your Environment. Your Health.

The Cost of Asthma from Traffic-Related Air Pollution

Rob McConnell, M.D., Nino Künzli, M.D., Ph.D., Fred Lurmann
University of Southern California, University of Basel, Sonoma Technology Inc.
NIEHS Grants R01ES016535, P01ES009581, R01ES014447, P01ES011627, P30ES007048


NIEHS-funded researchers have estimated that childhood asthma associated with air pollution in Long Beach and Riverside, Calif., costs $18 million each year. Asthma cases attributed to traffic-related pollution contributed to almost half of the cost, and the remaining cost came from asthma exacerbations triggered by traffic-related pollution in children with asthma not caused by air pollution.


According to the researchers, traditional methods for assessing risk from air pollution have underestimated the overall burden of asthma and the costs associated with air pollution. They estimated the annual costs of childhood asthma from traffic-related pollution using their previous estimates of the number of asthma cases attributable to pollution, cost estimates for asthma exacerbations that occur because of regional air pollutants, and information on health care visits by children with asthma. They included a broad range of health care costs such as parents' missed work days, extra doctor visits, travel time, and prescriptions.


The researchers calculated the total annual cost for a typical asthma case to be $3,819 in Long Beach and $4,063 in Riverside. The largest portion of this cost came from asthma-related school absences, which often require that parents or caregivers miss work. The investigators say that their new method takes into account the full impact of traffic-related pollution and can be applied to other urban areas.


Citation: Brandt SJ, Perez L, Künzli N, Lurmann F, McConnell R. 2012. Costs of childhood asthma due to traffic-related pollution in two California communities. Eur Respir J; doi: 10.1183/09031936.00157811 [Online 26 Jan 2012].

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