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Your Environment. Your Health.

Airports, air pollution, and contemporaneous health

Environmental Health Economic Analysis Annotated Bibliography


Research article Cost analysis (CA)
Schlenker W and Walker WR
The Review of Economic Studies
This study used a novel framework to estimate the contemporaneous health effects and external health costs associated with air pollution generated by local airport runway congestion in California. Study findings showed that daily variation in airport congestion significantly impacted the health of local residents, and this effect was largely driven by carbon monoxide (CO) exposure. A one standard deviation increase in daily pollution levels led to an additional $1 million in hospital costs for respiratory and heart-related hospital admissions for the 6 million individuals living within 10 km of the 12 largest airports in California; these effects are largest for infants and the elderly. The reported health effects occurred at levels of CO exposure far below existing EPA mandates, and these results suggest lowering the existing CO standard could create sizeable morbidity benefits.
All residents living near 12 major airports in California, and two major subpopulations of these residents: children (≤ 5 years) and older adults (≥ 65 years)

Health Outcomes

  • Respiratory outcomes (asthma, acute respiratory illness, other respiratory illness)
  • morbidity outcomes
  • cardiovascular outcomes (heart-related problems)

Environmental Agents

List of Environmental Agents:

  • Air pollutants (carbon monoxide (CO), nitrous oxide (NO2), ozone (O3))

Source of Environmental Agents:

  • Local airport runway congestion

Economic Evaluation / Methods and Source


  • Cost analysis (CA)

Cost Measured:

  • Local hospital admissions (inpatient and emergency room visits)

Potential Cost Measures:

  • Costs due to the long-term, cumulative effect of pollution on health
  • costs of health effects for individuals living more than 10km from an airport
  • non-hospital cost of illness (e.g., primary care visit, prescription medicines, lost work days)
  • marginal willingness to pay to avoid treatment

Benefits Measures: (Not available)

Potential Benefits: (Not available)


  • California

Models Used: (Not available)

Methods Used:

  • The authors developed a novel framework to estimate the link between ground level airport congestion, local air pollution levels, and contemporaneous health effects (hospitalization rates) for major airports in California. They — 1) focused their analyses on populations and areas within 10km of the 12 major airports; 2) constructed a daily congestion measure for each of the 12 major airports in California by aggregating the combined taxi time of all airplanes at an airport; 3) constructed daily measures of air pollution (CO, NO2, and O3) surrounding airports using a specific air pollution monitoring network/database; 4) used temperature, precipitation, and wind data in their analyses to control for direct effects of weather on health, and to leverage the quasi-experimental features of wind direction and wind speed in distribution airport pollution from airports; and 5) measured health effects using hospital discharge and emergency room data for hospitals in California.

Sources Used:

  • Air carriers: T-100 domestic segment US carriers data (Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 2008); monitoring network data maintained by the California Air Resource Board (CARB); Caution, drivers! Children present: traffic, pollution, and infant health (Knittel et al., 2011); Nonlinear temperature effects indicate severe damages to U.S. crop yields under climate change (Schlenker and Roberts, 2009); Climate change and birth weight (Deschênes et al., 2009); Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) Airline On-Time Performance Database; National Climatic Data (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)); California Emergency Department & Ambulatory Surgery data set (2005-2007); additional sources cited in publication

Economic Evaluation / Methods and Source


  • Schlenker W and Walker WR. 2016. Airports, air pollution, and contemporaneous health. The Review of Economic Studies.
  • Pubmed
  • DOI

NIEHS Funding: (Not available)

Other Funding:

  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
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