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Economic impacts

Each episode of illness caused by or made worse by air has direct and indirect economic consequences for individuals and society. They range from the costs of medical care through costs due to absence from work, to the loss of healthy years of life.

Keeping in mind all the uncertainties related to quantifying the health impacts of air pollution, the extent of the damage to populations' health from the pollution can be estimated using the available epidemiological and other knowledge, and information from air quality monitoring or modelling. (See table on p. a4 and box below).

Costs of air pollution 1991

  • ozone impact on agricultural crops in Sweden - $300 million a year
  • corrosion of building materials in Sweden - $250 million a year
  • corrosion of buildings in Europe - $10 billion a year
  • health costs from NO2 and PM10 in Norway - $200 million a year

Source: Figures taken from the article "Air Pollution Costs Billions" published in "Enviro N° 21 Sept. 1996", Swedish EPA, Author: Jörgen Hellberg.

Interesting data were quoted in 1964, over a quarter of a century ago, in the English newspaper The Guardian. "The costs of atmospheric pollution were estimated by members of the Beaver Committee on pollution ten years ago at £250 million a year. (…) Direct costs of pollution were given as: Laundry bills £25 million; painting and decorating £30 million, cleaning and depreciation of buildings other than houses £20 million, corrosion of metals £25 million, damage to textile and other goods £52 million. Because certain direct costs had been omitted, it was thought that the truer figure was at least £150 million a year.(…) It has been estimated that Britain has 10 to 15 times more bronchitis than any other industrial nation. Each year in Britain, 30 000 people die from it while it costs industry 27 000 000 lost working days annually. It has been claimed that the annual cost of bronchitis in the region of £60 million".


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