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Your Environment. Your Health.

Wildfire smoke health costs: a methods case study for a Southwestern US "mega-fire'

Environmental Health Economic Analysis Annotated Bibliography


Research article Cost benefit analysis (CBA)
Jones BA, Thacher JA, Chermak JM, Berrens RP
Journal of Environmental Economics and Policy
This study examined costs of exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) from wildfire smoke during a 2011 mega-fire event in New Mexico. The authors used a benefits transfer tool, the Environmental Benefits Mapping and Analysis Program-Community Edition (BenMAP-CE), to compare cost estimates derived from wildfire-specific data versus urban air data. They estimated that the cost of illness for asthma emergency room visits were higher based on wildfire smoke studies ($4,664) compared to urban air quality literature ($177). Similarly, costs were higher for all respiratory hospital admissions for wildfire ($106,405) versus urban air quality ($73,760) studies. Willingness to pay to avoid an air pollutant-related symptom were $429,156 based on wildfire studies, and $337,623 based on urban air studies. The authors concluded that cost analyses of wildfire health impacts and damage should use previous wildfire-specific study results when possible.
Populations of metropolitan areas (ages not specified)

Health Outcomes

  • Respiratory outcomes (asthma, pneumonia)

Environmental Agents

List of Environmental Agents:

  • Air pollutants (wildfire smoke)

Source of Environmental Agents:

  • Wildfires

Economic Evaluation / Methods and Source


  • Cost benefit analysis (CBA)

Cost Measured:

  • Costs of emergency department visits for asthma
  • Costs of hosptial admissions for respiratory illness

Potential Cost Measures:

  • Costs of exposure to other air pollutants such as ozone or NO2
  • Use of modeled air data to analyze more geographic areas
  • Statistical analysis to compare BenMAP-CE results with other studies

Benefits Measures:

  • Willingness-to-pay costs to avoid minor restricted activity days by using an air filter
  • Consideration of covariables including chronic respiratory disease, symptoms, education, smelling smoke at home, years in NM, Latino, and number of children under age five in the home

Potential Benefits: (Not available)


  • Albuquerque, New Mexico metropolitan area

Models Used:

  • Environmental Benefits Mapping and Analysis Program-Community Edition (BenMAP-CE) (US EPA)

Methods Used:

  • The authors estimated economic costs of wildfire smoke morbidity to demonstrate use of the benefits mapping tool BenMAP-CD. The authors: —1) applied concentration-response (CR) functions from studies of western US wildfires and urban air quality within the BenMAP-CE tool to compare the two estimates; 2) selected the air quality grid for Bernalillo County, NM and the Community Multi-scale Air Quality Model (CMAQ) that uses monitored air quality data; 3) defined the comparison or treatment condition as days when the daily average reading exceeded the 99th percentile average over the previous five years; 4) estimated wildfire-specific willingness to pay (WTP) using the defensive behavior method for costs of averting and mitigating behaviors; 5) estimated costs of health endpoints using CR functions from urban air quality and wildfire smoke studies; and 6) used results of a questionnaire of Albuquerque residents to estimate WTP to avoid a wildfire smoke-related illness.

Sources Used:

  • Concentration-response (CR) functions for wildfire-specific estimates (Delfino et al., 2009; Resnick et al., 2015); CR functions for urban air quality benefit transfers (Mar, Koenig, and Primomo, 2010; Zanobetti et al., 2009; Slaughter et al., 2005; Ito, 2003; Sheppard, 2003; Ostro and Rothschild, 1989); daily monitored PM2.5 air quality data from US EPA AirData for 2008-2012 (; questionnaire results from a University of New Mexico survey; additional sources cited in the publication

Economic Evaluation / Methods and Source


  • Jones BA, Thacher JA, Chermak JM, Berrens RP. 2016. Wildfire smoke health costs: a methods case study for a Southwestern US "mega-fire'. Journal of Environmental Economics and Policy.
  • Pubmed: (Not available)
  • DOI

NIEHS Funding: (Not available)

Other Funding:

  • National Science Foundation
  • New Mexico EPSCOR
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