Fine particulate matter pollution linked to respiratory illness in infants and increased hospital costs
There has been little research to date on the linkages between air pollution and infectious respiratory illness in children, and the resulting health care costs. In this study we used data on air pollutants and national hospitalizations to study the relationship between fine particulate air pollution and health care charges and costs for the treatment of bronchiolitis, an acute viral infection of the lungs. We found that as the average exposure to fine particulate matter over the lifetime of an infant increased, so did costs for the child's health care. If the United States were to reduce levels of fine particulate matter to 7 percent below the current annual standard, the nation could save $15 million annually in reduced health care costs from hospitalizations of children with bronchiolitis living in urban areas. These findings reinforce the need for ongoing efforts to reduce levels of air pollutants. They should trigger additional investigation to determine if the current standards for fine-particulate matter are sufficiently protective of children's health.