Improving Estimates of Air Pollution Health Impacts and Values

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Benefits Mapping and Analysis Program (BenMAP) is widely used to calculate the number and economic value of air pollution-related deaths and illnesses around the world. EPA recently asked an expert committee of its independent Science Advisory Board (SAB) to review the methods and calculations used in the model, focusing on those that are most relevant to estimating the benefits of U.S. air pollution regulations. CHDS faculty Lisa Robinson served on the committee, which recently issued its final report.

Overall, the SAB concluded that BenMAP provides estimates that “are scientifically robust and appropriate for regulatory analyses” but that can be improved in several specific ways. For example, the SAB recommends that EPA expand the set of epidemiologic studies it considers when estimating the health impacts of changes in air quality; use pooling to develop probabilistic mortality risk estimates with associated uncertainty ranges; and rely on scenarios for demographic information rather than a single deterministic projection. The SAB also recommends that EPA update its approach for estimating the value of changes in mortality risks (the value per statistical life – VSL) and develop more comprehensive measures of the value of changes in morbidity risks. When suitable estimates of individual willingness to pay are not available, the SAB recommends that EPA include proxy measures at minimum in a sensitivity analysis, rather than relying solely on cost of illness estimates for nonfatal cases. These proxy measures may include, for example, monetized quality-adjusted life year (QALY) estimates.

Learn more: Environmental Benefits Mapping and Analysis Program
Learn more: Read the report: Review of BenMAP and Benefits Methods
Learn more: Resource Pack: Valuing Health and Longevity in BCA

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Related news: Robinson Keynote at Milan SBCA Conference