Researchers say the most common hospital-based medical care triggered by elevated air pollution levels are emergency room visits for asthma among children aged 17 and under, with more than 12,000 visits over the three-year study period.
The most costly conditions examined by researchers were hospital admissions triggered by air pollution for acute bronchitis, pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Those conditions accounted for nearly one-third of the $193 million in health care spending documented over the study period.
Nearly three-quarters of the health events identified by researchers were triggered by high levels of fine particulate pollution -- tiny pieces of soot that can lodge deep in lungs. The health events examined in the study were concentrated in the San Joaquin Valley and the four-county South Coast Air Basin.
The cost of treating health events caused by air pollution is equal to the expense of providing flu vaccines to 85 percent of California children under age 15, according to the report.
Researchers say their study provides a conservative estimate about the costs of medical care triggered by air pollution because it does not include outpatient care provided in clinics or medical offices. Details about that type of medical care are not routinely reported to state agencies and thus could not be analyzed.
The study also includes case studies of individual hospitals in Fresno, Lynwood, Palo Alto, Riverside and Sacramento. That analysis demonstrates that costs and types of illness reported vary by region.
To conduct the study, researchers used epidemiological studies that link elevated pollution levels to respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses, and compared that information to pollution levels measured across the state from 2005 to 2007 by various public agencies.
|Contact: Warren Robak|