Pollution and Child Health
The papers in this session investigate the consequences of air pollution from multiple sources on the health of both children and adults. The first paper considers the adverse effects of pollution from a large coal-fired power plant in Pennsylvania on pregnant women living downwind from the plant in New Jersey. The authors estimate that downwind exposure to plant emissions, and sulfur dioxide in particular, is associated with a 42 percent increase in the likelihood of a full-term low birth weight baby. The second paper also considers the adverse effects of coal-fired power plant emissions, but uses variation in emissions from the regulation of power plants due to acid rain legislation to identify the long run effect of pollution on adult mortality. The last paper investigates air pollution generated by a competing source of energy: natural gas. Although burning natural gas results in relatively few emissions, the development of sites to conduct hydraulic fracturing (i.e. “fracking”) beneath shale formulations results in diesel emissions from construction vehicles and fracking pumps. Using county-level variation across time in the development of natural gas wells, the authors find that fracking increases hospitalization rates for five air-pollution sensitive chronic conditions. Taken together, the papers of this session provide important evidence on the negative health externalities from electricity generation and energy extraction that will inform current regulatory decisions.