Ozone pollution could kill millions

Ozone pollution could cause hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of damage to human health and result in millions of premature deaths around the world by 2050.

Ozone is not directly emitted, but formed in the atmosphere by reactions involving precursor pollutants, as nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from vehicles and power plants. Ozone pollution can lead to acute respiratory problems, for example asthma and chest infections, particularly in children and the elderly.

“We estimate that health costs due to global ozone pollution by 2050 will be US$580 billion, and that more than two million premature deaths will result from acute exposure,” said researcher Noelle Selin of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The research team used a computer model to assess how ozone pollution contributes to human illness and death, quantifying the economic impacts of this damage in 16 regions around the world. They calculated how much ozone pollution will cost in real monetary terms with respect to working and leisure time lost – also known as “economic welfare”. They did this by using year 2000 and projected 2050 levels of ozone, and simulating how increasing levels of ozone directly influence economic welfare.

Increased temperatures due to global warming can directly influence the chemistry of the reactions that form ozone. The projected increases in the amount of ozone precursors are very large – especially in developing countries, and the ozone-related economic effects of these emission increases will be far higher than those expected from climate change impacts on ozone.

The total health costs of ozone pollution above pre-industrial background levels are estimated to amount to US$580 billion, or 0.4 per cent of the world’s GDP, by 2050.

Source: environmentalresearchweb. Study: Global health and economic impacts of future ozone pollution. By N. Selin et. al. Published in Environmental Research Letters 4, 2009.
See: environmentalresearchweb.org/cws/article/research/41253

In this issue