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Air Pollution and Human Health

journal contribution
posted on 1975-12-01, 00:00 authored by Lester B. Lave, Eugene P. Seskin

Air pollution is a problem of growing importance; public interest seems to have risen faster than the level of pollution in recent years. Presidential messages and news stories have reflected the opinion of scientists and civic leaders that pollution must be abated. This concern has manifested itself in tightened local ordinances (and, more importantly, in increased enforcement of existing ordinances), in federal legislation, and in extensive research to find ways of controlling the emission of pollutants from automobiles and smokestacks. Pollutants are natural constituents of the air. Even without man' and his technology, plants, animals, and natural activity would cause some pollution. For example, animals vent carbon dioxide, volcanic action produces sulfur oxides, and wind movement insures that there will be suspended particulates; there is no possibility of removing all pollution from the air. Instead, the problem. is one of balancing the need of polluters to vent residuals against the damage suffered by society as a result of the increased pollution (1) . To find an optimum level, we must know the marginal costs and marginal benefits associated with abatement. This article is focused on measuring one aspect of the benefit of pollution abatement.




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