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Your Environment. Your Health.

Prenatal exposure to airborne polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and IQ: Estimated benefit of pollution reduction

Environmental Health Economic Analysis Annotated Bibliography


Research article Cost-benefit analysis (CBA)
Perera F, Weiland K, Neidell M, and Wang S
Journal of Public Health Policy
This study examined the benefits of a modest decrease in PAH exposure to children in New York City, and estimated a $215 million gain in lifetime earnings due to IQ increase for a single year. These results suggested that a modest reduction in ambient concentrations of PAH is associated with substantial economic benefits as measured by lifetime earnings for exposed children.
Children (0-5 years) — Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health NYC cohort (low-income, Medicaid recipients)

Health Outcomes

  • Neurological/cognitive outcomes (IQ deficits)

Environmental Agents

List of Environmental Agents:

  • Air pollutants (Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs))

Source of Environmental Agents:

  • Combustion of fossil fuels and other organic materials

Economic Evaluation / Methods and Source


  • Cost-benefit analysis (CBA)

Cost Measured:

  • IQ deficits/loss associated with PAH exposure

Potential Cost Measures:

  • Costs of controlling emissions from PAH from diverse sources

Benefits Measures:

  • Estimated increase in IQ and related lifetime earnings

Potential Benefits:

  • Reduction of asthma and cancer risk


  • New York City, New York (Washington Heights, Harlem, and South Bronx)

Models Used: (Not available)

Methods Used:

  • Researchers utilized previous data from the CCCEH cohort study to estimate the increase in IQ and related lifetime earnings in a low-income urban population as a result of reduced ambient PAH concentrations. The researchers — 1) calculated the cost of PAH-related IQ reduction using methods outlined in previous literature (Grosse et al. 2002 and Trasande et al. 2005); 2) estimated the gain in IQ corresponding to the hypothesized reduction in ambient PAH exposure of 0.25 ng/m3; 3) used monitoring data from CCCEH cohort study and city-wide monitoring data o obtain estimates of PAH exposure; and 4) used previous methodologies (Weiland et al. 2011) and selected Medicaid births in NYC which shared basic socioeconomic characteristics of the CCCEH cohort to estimate the size of the population at risk in NYC.

Sources Used:

  • Summary of Vital Statistics 2002: NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (Li et al., 2003); Prenatal airborne polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon exposure and child IQ at age 5 years (Perera et al., 2009); additional sources cited in publication

Economic Evaluation / Methods and Source


  • Perera F, Weiland K, Neidell M, and Wang S. 2014. Prenatal exposure to airborne polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and IQ: Estimated benefit of pollution reduction. Journal of Public Health Policy.
  • Pubmed
  • DOI

NIEHS Funding:

  • 5P01ES09600
  • 5R01ES08977

Other Funding: (Not available)

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