Policy Interventions to Address Health Impacts Associated with Air Pollution, Unsafe Water Supply and Sanitation, and Hazardous Chemicals

Research output: Working paper / PreprintWorking paper


The purpose of the paper is to review the recent empirical literature relating to the quantification and valuation of the human health impacts of air pollution, hazardous chemicals, and unsafe water and sanitation, and their use in cost-benefit analysis, as an input to environmental policy decision-making. For each of these three environmental hazards, the nature and range of these health impacts are identified. The extent to which these impacts can, and have been, quantified and valued in monetary terms, is described. The use of this data in public policy-centred CBA is evaluated.
The health impacts associated with particulates and low-level ozone, and quantified on the basis of epidemiological evidence, ranges from minor respiratory conditions to cardio-pulmonary related mortality. CBA that includes these impacts is an established feature of air quality regulation formulation in North America and Europe. Indeed, reduced mortality impacts have dominated the benefits included in many recent appraisals of such policy development, though the robust valuation of these impacts is still evolving.

Heavy metals are associated with a variety of cancer impacts as well as on neurological development, renal dysfunction and a number of other impacts. These impacts are increasing being quantified and valued, in response to the requirement for more rigour arising from regulatory agencies in OECD countries. Increasingly sophisticated approaches to deal with the current attendant uncertainties are also being utilised.

The health risks from unsafe water and sanitation derive from faecal contamination, bacteria and viruses and include gastroenteritis, diarrhoea amongst others. OECD countries use of quantified information relating to these risks in CBA is currently in the context of wastewater management, where benefit-cost ratios are sometimes found to be less than one. In contrast, in developing countries, health risks are included in the appraisal of water supply investments. In these countries, health risks are significant but generally not as important as time savings in the benefits side of the CBA, though the quantification and monetisation of health risks is often rather partial.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationParis
Number of pages74
ISBN (Electronic)19970900
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jun 2011

Publication series

NameOECD Environmental Working Papers


  • meta-anaylsis
  • value of statistical life
  • transport
  • health
  • environment
  • Policy implication


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