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Your Environment. Your Health.

Diminishing returns or compounding benefits of air pollution control? The case of NOx and ozone

Environmental Health Economic Analysis Annotated Bibliography


Research article Cost-benefit analysis (CBA)
Pappin AJ, Mesbah SM, Hakami A, and Schott S
Environ Sci Technol
This cost-benefit analysis estimated the marginal benefits (MB) for nitrous oxides (NOx) emitted from mobile and point sources, and characterized these benefits based on estimated ozone-related premature mortality in the United States population. Results showed that nation-wide emission control in the United States significantly increased NOx MBs for all sources. These findings provide economic incentive for higher levels of abatement, and demonstrate a strictly concave damage function and compounding benefits of progressively lower levels of NOx emission. These findings suggest that the traditional perception of a convex damage function and decreasing MB with abatement may not hold true for secondary pollutants such as ozone.
Not available

Health Outcomes

  • Mortality

Environmental Agents

List of Environmental Agents:

  • Air pollutants (ozone (O3), nitrogen oxides (NOx))

Source of Environmental Agents:

  • Mobile and point sources

Economic Evaluation / Methods and Source


  • Cost-benefit analysis (CBA)

Cost Measured:

  • Mortalities cost resulting from acute exposure to ozone

Potential Cost Measures:

  • Cost of environmental impacts
  • health impacts from other NOx related air pollutants (NO2 and inorganic PM)

Benefits Measures:

  • Marginal benefits (MB) of averted mortality resulting from reduced short-term (acute) exposure to ozone

Potential Benefits:

  • Marginal benefits (MB) of averted mortality resulting from reduced long-term exposure to ozone
  • MB of averted morbidity resulting from reduced short-term (acute) exposure to ozone
  • MB of nonfatal health impacts of ozone
  • MB of environmental impacts of ozone
  • impacts of reduced emissions generated within US and resulting public health impacts for other nations


  • United States

Models Used:

  • US EPA Community Multiscale Air Quality (CMAQ) model
  • Sparse Matrix Operator Kernel Emissions (SMOKE) model
  • Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model

Methods Used:

  • Authors performed an air quality cost-benefit assessment related to emissions control for nitrogen oxides (NOx) with respect to ozone formation. The authors — 1) estimated marginal benefits (MB) for mobile and point sources using adjoint sensitivity analysis in a regional air quality model (CMAQ); 2) constructed MB curves for 1 ton of emitted NOx using various US wide emissions abatement scenarios; and 3) reported MBs for 1 ton of NOx emitted over the 2007 ozone season according to the spatiotemporal distribution of emissions for any given source location.

Sources Used:

  • Ozone and short-term mortality in 95 US urban communities, 1987-2000 (Bell et al., 2004); US EPA, Guidelines for preparing economic analyses (2010); Source attribution of health benefits from air pollution abatement in Canada and the United States: an adjoint sensitivity analysis (Pappin et al., 2013); additional sources cited in publication

Economic Evaluation / Methods and Source


  • Pappin AJ, Mesbah SM, Hakami A, and Schott S. 2015. Diminishing returns or compounding benefits of air pollution control? The case of NOx and ozone. Environ Sci Technol.
  • Pubmed
  • DOI

NIEHS Funding: (Not available)

Other Funding:

  • Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
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