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February 13, 2012

Air pollution costs versus the price of fixing the air pollution

There were some errors that have been identified in a prior version of this article

1) needed to apply sources of particulates (Done)
2) construction dust and road dust are major sources. Factory built buildings can be a major reduction of building dust
3) Collecting the full economic justification for the costs from air pollution. (Will be adding data on acid rain damage to buildings and crops and haze that causes delays for planes etc...)


It costs $50 million per gigawatt to put 99% effective particulate air pollution control onto coal plants. China has about 650 GWe of coal power installed in 2011. It would probably be cheaper for China to do the particulate retrofits (say $30 million per GWe). Therefore $20 billion would enable a 99.5% reduction in particulates. The United States has 315 GWe of coal power installed in 2011. It would cost about $16 billion for electrostatic precipitators on all coal plants in the United States. There needs to be combination of mitigation devices to achieve 2-5 times better pollution control. The controls also need to be applied to industrial boilers and other pollution sources.

Emissions of Hazardous Air Pollutants from Coal-fired Power Plants, 2011 (46 pages)

386,000 tons of air pollutants annually. 40% of all hazardous air pollutants from point sources.


The National Research Council (Hidden Costs of energy: Unpriced consequences of Energy Production and Use, 2010) estimated that the PM2.5 emitted from 406 US coal plants caused $3.6 billion per year in health damage.

Multiple control technologies can reduce the emissions of particulates and other pollutants by 2-5 times.


Mobile sources are cars, planes, trains and boats and other diesel engines. Fuel combustion is coal, oil, biofuel and natural gas. Dust is commercial construction and unpaved and paved road sources.

Source categories are discussed here

It appears that the methods of further controlling coal PM2.5 and mobile sources like cars and trucks (planes, ships, rail) would fix about 40% of the US PM2.5 sources. I still that would be worthwhile.







Car pollution exhaust filters can reduce particulates by 98-99.5%.

The particle trap removed about 98 percent of all particles in the diesel exhaust and 99.8 percent of the smallest and most damaging particles (less than one micrometer). Adopting Euro 6 air pollution standards on cars and trucks could save 200,000 lives each year. The diesel engine exhaust filters could help achieve that goal.

Inhaling exhaust particles increases the risk of dying from heart and lung diseases. Air pollution, including diesel exhaust as a major contributor, causes 800,000 premature deaths annually in the world, according to the World Health Organization

It would cost $4000 per car and truck to put on particulate pollution control. $400 billion for $100 million cars and $40 billion per year for new cars and trucks. Assuming no substantial reduction in cost for that volume. Say $800 billion per year for 5 years and then $40 billion per year after that.

US Healthcare costs $2.6 trillion in the US each year. 15% of that is from increased pollution. $390 billion. It would be a bargain way to lower health costs and have a healthier population. Similar numbers for China, except China loses more to pollution. Plus there is environmental damage from pollution. Costs China 6% of GDP. In the US the east coast cars have less resale value and buildings need to be painted more because of acid rain

China's Air Pollution Damage

China’s pollution puts a dent in its economy
Despite improvements in air quality, the economic impact of air pollution has increased dramatically, new MIT study shows.


Quantifying costs from both lost labor and the increased need for health care, the study finds that this air pollution cost the Chinese economy $112 billion in 2005.

MIT - Health damages from air pollution in China

China has become the world’s largest emitter of mercury, carbon dioxide and other pollutants. In the 1980s, China’s particulate-matter concentrations were at least 10 to 16 times higher than the World Health Organization’s annual guidelines. Even after significant improvements by 2005, the concentrations were still five times higher than what is considered safe. These high levels of pollution have led to 656,000 premature deaths in China each year from ailments caused by indoor and outdoor air pollution, according to World Health Organization estimates from 2007.

“The study is evidence that more stringent air-pollution control measures may be warranted in China,” Gallagher says — because of not just the health effects of pollution, but also the economic effects.

This study evaluates air pollution-related health impacts on the Chinese economy by using an expanded version of the Emissions Prediction and Policy Analysis model. We estimated that marginal welfare impact to the Chinese economy of ozone and particulate-matter concentrations above background levels increased from 1997 US$22 billion in 1975 to 1997 US$112 billion in 2005, despite improvements in overall air quality. This increase is a result of the growing urban population and rising wages that thus increased the value of lost labor and leisure. In relative terms, however, welfare losses from air pollution decreased from 14% of the historical welfare level to 5% during the same period because the total size of the economy grew much faster than the absolute air pollution damages. In addition, we estimated that particulate-matter pollution alone led to a gross domestic product loss of 1997 US$64 billion in 1995. Given that the World Bank’s comparable estimate drawn from a static approach was only 1997 US$34 billion, this result suggests that conventional static methods neglecting the cumulative impact of pollution-caused welfare damage are likely to underestimate pollution-health costs substantially. However, our analysis of uncertainty involved in exposure–response functions suggests that our central estimates are susceptible to significantly large error bars of around +/- 80%.


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