Essays on the Effects of Air Pollution on Human Health
Ruiz-Tagle, Juan Cristobal
Williams, Roberton C
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According to recent reports by The World Bank and the World Health Organization millions of people die every year because of exposure to ambient air pollution—the vast majority of them in developing countries (World Bank 2016; World Health Organization 2016). Policy makers throughout the developing world are starting to seriously address this issue by designing and implementing a battery of policies for reducing ambient air pollution. To weight the cost and benefits of these policies policy makers need estimates of the benefits of reducing ambient air pollution. In this dissertation I provide estimates of the benefits of air pollution reduction in terms of its effects on human health. I use data from Chile, a middle income country that in recent years experienced a period of rapid industrialization and economic growth—similar to the process that many developing economies are experiencing these days. I believe that estimates and methods from this dissertation can provide a valuable tool to aid policy makers in the developing world in their goals to reduce ambient air pollution. Chapter 1 examines the effects of exposure to ambient air pollution on infant mortality. Using state-of-the art techniques to identify causal effects and reduce possible bias due to measurement error in air pollution exposure, results from this chapter show significant effects of exposure to ambient air pollution on infant mortality. This effect is larger for infant mortality due to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Chapter 2 examines the effect of exposure to ambient air pollution on urgent care visits for different age groups and across different types of urgent care visits. Using a novel strategy to identify causal effects, results from this chapter show a significant effect on respiratory urgent care visits and on cardiovascular and circulatory urgent care visits. This effect is larger for the elderly and for respiratory urgent care visits due to pneumonia and lower respiratory diseases. Chapter 3 examines the effect of exposure to ambient air pollution on the probability of a pregnancy ending in a stillbirth delivery. Results from this chapter show a significant effect of acute exposure to air pollution on the probability of stillbirth delivery. This effect is larger for those stillbirths that are due to hypoxia.