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Air Pollution Costs San Joaquin Valley $3 Billion a Year
Economists' research, which delves into school and work absences, chronic illness, hospitalization and premature deaths, estimates that pollution costs the region about $3 billion a year.

March 29, 2006 :: No. 185

A new study released today puts a $3 billion price tag on the impact of air pollution on the health of San Joaquin Valley residents. Conducted by a team of nationally recognized economists and a leading air-quality expert, the study is the first such analysis of the region's air quality.

"The Health and Related Economic Benefits of Attaining Healthful Air in the San Joaquin Valley" is based on the review and analysis of dozens of peer-reviewed economic and scientific studies. The results include the costs of health problems, premature deaths, missed school days and decreased worker productivity that result from air pollution in the region.

"It's sobering to see the costs exacted by the Valley's polluted air. But now we know the price the region pays," said Jane V. Hall, an internationally recognized authority on environmental economics, professor of economics and co-director of Cal State Fullerton's Institute for Economic and Environmental Studies.

The research team includes Victor Brajer, Cal State Fullerton professor of economics who has partnered with Hall on a number of environmental economics studies, and Fred Lurmann, who has 27 years of experience in air-quality and exposure analysis, and advises several state air-pollution agencies.

According to the study, the cost of air pollution averages $1,000 per person per year, and represents the following:

  • 460 premature deaths among those age 30 and older
  • 23,300 asthma attacks
  • 188,000 days of school absences
  • 3,230 cases of acute bronchitis in children
  • 3,000 lost work days
  • 325 new cases of chronic bronchitis
  • 188,400 days of reduced activity in adults
  • 260 hospital admissions
  • More than 17,000 days of respiratory symptoms in children

The report indicates that some communities, including those with high populations of Latinos/Hispanics and African-Americans, are harder hit than others, due to the varying concentrations of dirty air around the region.

The report cautions that the problem will become much worse if left unaddressed. The San Joaquin Valley's current population of more than 3 million residents is expected to grow by a third by 2020, with traffic and driving expected to increase at an even greater rate during the same period.

"The San Joaquin Valley can't afford to foot this bill. We're losing lives, money and making the Central Valley an increasingly less attractive place to live and work. It is far too expensive to do nothing. We need to make an investment in the region's economic future," said state Sen. Dean Florez (D-Shafter), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Air Quality in the Central Valley.

"We have a choice to make — watching the burden of air pollution health effects increase for the region's sensitive populations, the children and elderly, or getting serious about cleaning up the San Joaquin Valley's air for the 21st century," said Fred Lurmann, one of the authors of the study.
The full report is available on the web at:

Media Contact:
Pamela McLaren, Public Affairs, 657-278-4852 or

Funding for the study was provided by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, with support for the dissemination of the study findings provided by The California Endowment.

The Institute for Economic and Environmental Studies at California State University, Fullerton issues regular economic forecasts, provides analysis-based policy advice on economic and environmental issues, and studies regional economic impacts. The institute undertakes independent studies, as well as contract research into the areas of its focus with private and public entities.

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, has been making grants since 1966 to help solve social and environmental problems at home and around the world. The Foundation concentrates its resources on activities in education, environment, global development, performing arts, philanthropy and population. It also makes grants to support disadvantaged communities in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The California Endowment, a private, statewide health foundation, was established in 1996 to expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities, and to promote fundamental improvements in the health status of all Californians. The endowment makes grants to organizations and institutions that directly benefit the health and well-being of the people of California.

« back to News Front

Hall and Brajer
Jane V. Hall and Victory Brajer, both professors of economics, review data from their recently released study on the cost of air pollution in the San Joaquin Valley.

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