Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New model could help predict historical air pollution exposure; Study also shows that air quality improves when unemployment rises

Date:
September 12, 2012
Source:
Tufts University
Summary:
A recent study of the relationship between air quality and unemployment levels uses a new statistical model that retrospectively estimates air pollution for previous time periods where such information is not available. The study also found that air quality improved during recessions.

In a study that analyzed relationships between air quality and unemployment levels, a Tufts University researcher has developed a new statistical model that retrospectively estimates air pollution exposure for previous time periods where such information is not available.

Mary Davis, an associate professor of urban and environmental policy and planning at Tufts University School of Arts and Sciences, analyzed traffic-related air pollution levels and unemployment rates in four separate regions of California for which extensive air monitoring data was available: San Francisco Bay, Sacramento Valley, San Joaquin Valley, and the south-central coast between 1980 and 2000.

Davis focused on predicting trends in pollutants that are emitted by engines and known to negatively impact human health -- haze, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen dioxide. She integrated into her model other variables such as weather, population density, unemployment levels, and environmental regulations. Air pollution data came from the California Air Resources Board.

The unemployment data was provided by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. It showed broad shifts in overall unemployment with highs in the early 1980s and 1990s. Unemployment levels for the trucking industry, which were tracked separately, matched the overall trend.

Davis's analysis revealed a pattern. During the highest periods of unemployment -- early 1980s and early 1990s -- concentrations of the three pollutants decreased in small but discernible amounts for every one percent increase in unemployment. The reason for the decrease, she says, was due to slowdowns in commercial trucking and car trips to work, shopping malls, or recreational destinations.

Importantly, Davis says the model allows epidemiologists to look backwards in time to predict public exposure to pollution in a geographical area. This data would ultimately help researchers discern public health trends.

"We can retrospectively estimate exposure levels for previous periods where direct data is lacking," says Davis, author of the paper titled "Recessions and Health: The Impact of Economic Trends on Air Pollution in California," which will be published in the October issue of the journal "American Journal of Public Health" (available online on August 16). "Without an accurate and historically relevant exposure model it is difficult to obtain estimates of lifetime human exposure which is critical in studies of chronic disease," she adds.

As an example of how the model could be used, Davis applied her formula to the years between 2006 and 2010 -- when unemployment rose from 4.9 percent to 12.4 percent in California. According to the model, there would have been a 16.8 percent decline in ambient concentrations of carbon monoxide and a 12.2 percent decline in concentrations of nitrogen dioxide.

Her findings were not independently validated but Davis says that "the comparison provides perspective on what the predicted change in air pollution would be during a major economic downturn based on the results of the model."

Davis also looked for relationships between unemployment in the trucking industry and air quality. With trucking, she included estimates for haze, which is a marker for diesel-powered truck emissions. Here, she found a similar pattern of lower predicted pollution levels between 2006 and 2010.

Davis says that the results of her work provide evidence linking the economy to air pollution. In a 2010 study of air pollution levels and economic trends in New Jersey between 1971 and 2003, Davis found a similar relationship between pollution and unemployment.

"This is evidence that cyclical economic activity has an impact on concentrations of pollutants that the general public is exposed to," says Davis. "There is a net benefit for public health in terms of air pollution when unemployment rises."

In the context of environmental policy, Davis suggested that environmental regulating agencies should consider the relationship between air quality and unemployment as they evaluate the effectiveness of clean air regulations. "Air quality regulations have an impact but they don't happen in a vacuum," she continues. "Policies aimed at improving air quality may act to speed up or slow down the underlying trend set by the economy."

Davis, who is participating in a National Institutes of Health-funded study of the trucking industry, air pollution and cancer rates with a team of Harvard University scientists, said the methodology she used in this research could be applied to other regions of the country where data is available.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Tufts University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Mary E. Davis. Recessions and Health: The Impact of Economic Trends on Air Pollution in California. American Journal of Public Health, 2012; 102 (10): 1951 DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2012.300658

Cite This Page:

Tufts University. "New model could help predict historical air pollution exposure; Study also shows that air quality improves when unemployment rises." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 September 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120912152833.htm>.
Tufts University. (2012, September 12). New model could help predict historical air pollution exposure; Study also shows that air quality improves when unemployment rises. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120912152833.htm
Tufts University. "New model could help predict historical air pollution exposure; Study also shows that air quality improves when unemployment rises." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120912152833.htm (accessed September 16, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) A Texas man is lucky to be alive after he and three others floated for more than a day in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat sank during a fishing trip. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Federal researchers are exploring more than a dozen underwater sites where they believe ships sank in the treacherous waters west of San Francisco in the decades following the Gold Rush. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Conservationists Face Uphill PR Battle With New Shark Rules

Conservationists Face Uphill PR Battle With New Shark Rules

Newsy (Sep. 14, 2014) New conservation measures for shark fishing face an uphill PR battle in the fight to slow shark extinction. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins