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Maisie Strawn

I found all three of these articles to be really interesting, especially the article on air pollution and cognition. These articles are especially important given various researchers’ findings that appealing to health issues is the best way to motivate leaders to take action on environmental issues. Dr Maria Neira, director of Public Health and Environment at the World Health Organization, put it well saying, “..threats to health — a matter of deep personal concern to everyone — have the power to galvanize in pursuit of environmental recovery.” (https://www.who.int/quantifying_ehimpacts/publications/previdsvideo/en/). Articles like these three help the public and lawmakers understand exactly how environmental degradation affects their everyday life. I think the threats of environmental degradation can sometimes feel vague or distant, but these papers do an excellent job of demonstrating their negative impact. I doubt most people have any idea that ambient air pollution could be affecting their cognitive abilities; I had never heard of such research before. It’s also important to consider that, like with many environmental issues, it is often the most vulnerable who are the most adversely affected. This was especially evident in the article on ozone in Australia and in the article on the effects of particles on human health. Both articles discuss how people with pre-existing respiratory conditions are the most susceptible to negative health effects from poor air quality. I think this ties into what we read about the damage air pollution can do to infants, even in utero. You cannot really protect yourself from the air you breathe, especially when you’re not even born yet, so it only seems reasonable to me that we seek to achieve air quality that protects the most vulnerable or helpless among us.

Jack Citrin

The paper titled the Impact of Exposure to Air Pollution on Cognitive Performance points out that the total negative externalities like air pollution are hard to calculate in practice. In China where they have one of the largest reservers of coal in the world, the carbon emissions are so profound that new social costs are continuing to be discovered. Air pollution is a compounding social cost. These costs not only apply to the health of human subjects but also their socioeconomic status. Air pollution causes impairment of cognitive function and therefore the poor suffer from an imbalance of educational learning. Therefore a model representing air pollution would reveal a much larger outward shift of the MSC curve.
The trend of more than previously thought social costs continues in the second paper on particulate matter. Inappropriate air regulation monitoring by government agencies has led to the continued exposure of smaller particles proven to be the most dangerous to inhale. They penetrate the lung tissue and cause airway blockages that make the air toxic to the body. The final paper looks specifically at ozone concentration's effect on schoolchildren. The theme is the same in that the social costs are high since ambient ozone concentrations have adverse impacts on exposed children and even worse effects on children with preexisting health conditions such as those with asthma bronchial hyperactivity.

Margot McConnell

These three articles tie together something that I can share some insight on based on research I have done the past two summers at a lab called the Institute of Exercise and Environmental Medicine. I specifically worked in the cerebrovascular lab, so we were looking at the relationship between the vascular system (heart and lungs) and the brain. After reading these three papers, it all made sense to me and basically lined up exactly with what the literature is saying even if you take out the pollution aspect of things. The lab I was in has been running clinical trials looking at how exercise can mitigate/delay the effects of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and even mild cognitive impairment (MCI). MCI occurs when cognition is impaired but not to the same level as Alzheimer’s or dementia. Basically, these clinical trials all implement an exercise intervention that subjects participate in, and throughout the study, certain levels of physical function are measured as well as cardiovascular fitness (maximal oxygen uptake). While we did not look into PEFR like the article on the Australian children, typically PEFR and maximal oxygen uptake are somewhat correlated. One of the benefits of exercise, especially for the at risk elderly population for dementia, is that it increases blood flow to the brain which is essential for the brain to properly work and has been shown to improve memory and cognitive performance.
Therefore, when articles like Nel’s point out that pollution leads to an increase in cardiac and respiratory problems, it does not surprise me that children’s PEFR is also affected by pollution. Ultimately, it does not surprise me that pollution’s effect on both PEFR and the cardiac and respiratory systems then leads to effects on cognitive performance. We are essentially getting the same results that we see in the lab I work in when you look at sedentary individuals and how they are more at risk for getting dementia than those who are active. It is due to a decrease in blood flow and oxygen to the brain to put it in simple terms. The science is the same in both situations. The only difference is pollution is now affecting children, whereas these studies on increasing exercise/activity are mainly targeted at the elderly population who is naturally at a greater risk of dementia. The fact that children are being negatively impacted because of pollution on a cognitive level is insane, but the science behind it makes sense.

Olivia Luzzio

The extent to which air pollution impacts cognitive performance in China calls into the question its role in other developing countries that suffer profoundly from polluted air. For example, according to the World Health Organization, India, Pakistan, Cameroon, and Uganda are home to at least one or more cities that are ranked in the top 20 of for worst air pollution in the world. These countries also suffer from significant economic, health, and educational challenges. It would be intriguing to explore the relationship between air pollution and economic growth in developing countries through the channel of cognitive performance. Since cognitive functioning is critical for making-decisions, logical reasoning, and memory creation and storage, any activity that diminishes cognition poses a potentially vast cost to society.
Of course, this cost is difficult to quantify. Similar to our discussion of the impacts of living near a coal mine in Appalachia, the impact of air-pollution induced detriments to cognitive functioning would be extensive and intertwined. As the paper mentions, most research thus far has dealt with the impacts of air pollution on the cognitive performance of school-age children. There are clearer costs for this age group, such as linkages to poor performance in school, lower educational attainment, and subsequent decreases in income as adults. However, when it comes to the elderly, whose cognitive abilities appear to be most at risk in the China study, the effects may be harder to grasp. Decisions the elderly make about how to spend their money has ripple effects on society as a whole, but they are less simply to pinpoint. The onset of diseases like Alzheimer’s, which has been linked to air pollution, may limit the productive portion of the population and at minimum imposes the costs of medical and occupational care. Such costs are also difficult to track because they could be correlated with other health problems or predetermined factors like previous generations’ investments in health and education. Thus, studying the interaction between air pollution and economic growth through the channel of cognitive performance on a global scale would reveal costs of climate change that are not immediately visible to society, but would require complex analysis to achieve accurate measurements.

Steven Black

These papers continue to add to the list of negative externalities that are the result of pollution, which continues to raise the MSC well above the MPC for any of the goods and services contributing to the pollution. It is scary that pollution has a significant effect on mental health as shown in the China study. The results of the study on ambient ozone and children's lung health are also bad, but it seems to be more common sense that air pollution is bad for respiratory health than mental health. Despite being strongly negative, these results are more comforting than the ones related to climate change from recent readings. The effects of climate change are inevitable, long-lasting and will affect people across the globe. Looking through the WHO data on air quality, the high levels of air pollution and negative impacts seem to be more localized and focused in lower-income cities. Ideally, these air pollution levels would fall as their income continue to rise and developed cities can serve as a model for what low-income cities should strive for in terms of air quality. The presence of large cities with low levels of particulate matter in the air to serve as a model is comforting because there did not seem to be any equivalent models during the climate change section. Due to this, these problems appear to be much more manageable than the rising CO2 emissions and the negative effects on the global climate. It would likely be easier to pass legislation with the goal of improving public health, especially for children, than it would be to improve ecosystem health since human health issues are much more relatable and likely to motivate change.

Mikki Whittington

Nel 2005 discusses the effects of PM on respiratory inflammation and cardiovascular disease. The beginning of this article states that PM can come from vehicle exhaust as well as other sources and that fine particles and ultrafine particles, the arguably more dangerous ones, come primarily from combustion of fossil fuels (i.e. the transportation sector and others). I immediately jumped to the research by Janet Currie and Reed Walker (2009) regarding the effects of the adoption of the EZ Pass system on infant health.

Toll booths require that automobiles decelerate to either a slow roll or to a stop. During high traffic hours, cars will idle at the toll booth. Idling for more than 10 seconds uses more fuel and produces more emissions than turning your engine off and then cutting it back on. Once cars have paid the toll, they must then accelerate back to cruising speed on the highway, again increasing the consumption of fuel and emissions. Neighborhoods in proximity to toll plazas are disproportionately affected by the increases in local pollution. In comparison, the implementation of the EZ Pass allows cars to maintain their cruising speed while still allowing the government to collect tolls.

Currie and Walker (2009) find that EZ Pass reduced the incidence of premature birth and low birth rate by 6.7-9.1 percent and 8.5-11.3 percent respectively. The Institute of Medicine estimated that the cost of prematurity is $51,600 per infant. The 6.7-9.1 percent decrease in the risk of premature birth among the 29,677 infants born within 2 km of a toll plaza in the three years following the implementation of EZ Pass can be valued at approximately $9.8-$13.2 million.

This further had me thinking about the effects that vehicular pollution may have on cyclists. As someone who will ride to downtown Winston-Salem from my house in the suburb, I frequently find myself behind an idling car(s). MacNaughton et al. (2014) identify the two main components of transportation-related air pollution (TRAP) to be black carbon and nitrogen dioxide. While MacNaughton et al. did not quantify levels of PM, it is likely that PM in shared traffic lanes is higher than that in separated bike paths. MacNaughton et al. (2014) found that shared traffic lanes have significantly higher levels of black carbon and nitrogen dioxide compared to bike paths that are separate from vehicle travel. Taken in conjunction with Nel (2005) and Zhang et al. (2018), this article suggests that cyclists are likely to experience adverse health effects as a result of exposure to TRAP. This provides an interesting point to consider: cyclists who utilize shared traffic lanes to commute to work are both reducing their carbon footprint and improving their health through exercise but are also subsequently exposing themselves to increased levels of air pollution and potential adverse health effects.


Nikki Doherty

The three articles today were extremely interesting, but mostly concerning. Moreover, reading the papers as a collective offered valuable insight into how wide-reaching the consequences of pollution are to all members of our society. For instance, Zhang (2018) paper discusses the negative health consequences of pollution particularly for older populations (pollution negatively impacts cognitive ability more in older birth cohorts), while Jalaludin (2000) paper discusses the negative health consequences of pollution on much younger populations (pollution negatively impacts lung function of children). The broad age spectrum impacted should wake up policy makers, especially knowing that the health of our most vulnerable ages (oldest and youngest) are at heightened risk. Additionally, the readings bring to light that health consequences differ for different subsets of the population.

The paper focusing on China illuminated the additional vulnerability that populations of developing countries may face. I spent last spring term in Nepal and was shocked by the stark visibility of air pollution. The temples around the city are covered in dust kicked up from all the dirt roads and infrastructure projects. Some days you would be able to clearly see the mountain on the other side of the valley, yet others you could not be convinced that the mountain existed there at all. Each day conversations with locals would be about the “smog” levels hiding the mountain views. But, the conversations were never about the “smog” leading to decreased lung functioning, heart disease, or cancers. Spending four weeks is a short amount of time; however, it is concerning that amid our studying of economics and our interactions with locals, air pollution did not explicitly come up. This gap leads me to wonder about who is informed about the negative health consequences of pollution, and leads me to believe that uneducated populations are likely in the dark. Saud and Paudel (2018) state that the threat of pollution on health has not reached the common public level in Nepal and thus people are not taking protective measures necessary. As visitors, we consistently wore masks to protect from kicked up dust but we rarely saw natives doing so. It is important to note that most daily life in Nepal takes place on the dusty streets, as grocery shop owners sit on their side walks and others routinely gather on roadsides for hangouts. As with other developing countries, Nepal has been pushing big development projects to spur economic growth. Katmandu, where a large amount of the air pollution is, is one of the fastest growing cities in South Asia and is experiencing increasing urbanization. The leading causes of particulate matter are the prevalence of motorcycles, especially in Katmandu, and brick kilns—building materials which inputs include powder coal. According to the Nepal Health Research Council, in Nepal, more than one in ten Nepalese suffer from a chronic lung problem such as bronchitis. Such issues are linked to the worsening air pollution in the country. At some points, Nepal has been labelled to have the worst air pollution in the world. The WHO attributes 10,000 deaths annually in Nepal to air pollution, establishing its role as a silent killer. Saud and Paudel (2018) estimate that by 2030, 24,000 premature deaths in Nepal will be due to air pollution. Looking at individuals most directly exposed to air pollution, Saud and Paudel (2018) establish that the pulmonary functions of traffic police working in Katmandu has significantly worsened. Thus, all other Katmandu residents who frequently sit on streets are at similar risk. The increased migration to Katmandu, reminds me of Wednesday’s reading in which the author suggested that with continued development, people are living in places that are most vulnerable to climate change (and in this case, pollution).

All of this is to say that I am constantly surprised by how much we are underestimating the costs of pollution and failing to spread awareness and protection to the population groups most vulnerable. Age, gender, past health histories, location, and (in earlier readings) race, all matter and cause the detrimental effects of pollution to vary. This heterogeneity increases the complexity of offering an exact figure of the cost of pollution and leads me to believe that it should not be an exact figure. Just as other papers have recognized, I believe a range of costs is probably most appropriate.

Saud and Paudel https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jeph/2018/1504591/
Reference to WHO and Nepal Health Research Council https://www.telegraph.co.uk/global-health/science-and-disease/one-ten-suffer-chronic-illness-air-pollution-nepal-soars/


From a public policy standpoint, I found these articles particularly interesting. The first article highlights that unsafe air pollution most negatively impacts the cognitive abilities of elderly people. When you think about people advance in age relocating or retiring, it is more beneficial for them to move to cities or areas where everything they need is in a close proximity (such as pharmacy, doctor, grocery store, post office). Unfortunately, while these areas offer connivence, these areas are also more likely to have negative health impacts.
The second article highlights the impacts of air pollution, specifically particulate matter. Linking this to the first article, I find it interesting that the longe term impacts of particulate matter are not being studied or talked about more. Again from a policy standpoint, the public health impacts could be huge based on the fact that ultra fine particulate matter can get deeper into lung tissues than other forms of air pollution and cause a cardiovascular risk for certain groups. There are advantages to research and regulation, as cleaner air would probably minimize the spending or visits to doctors. No one is going to argue that clean air is "bad," but I think the most compelling arguments to be made are the fact that the benefits of more regulated air would minimize health care spending enough to balance out the upfront spending on regulation and research.

Max Gebauer

The German word for "environment" is "Umwelt" which is the conjunction of the preposition "um" which when referring to spatial dimensions roughly means "around" and "Welt" meaning world. Therefore, "Umwelt" has the sense of meaning "around world" which I believe roughly captures the intuitive meaning of the word "environment" when used in its broadest sense. The environment is the backdrop against which everything else occurs. In this understanding, the environment is causally inert, and neutral space. However, these three papers dispute this basic conceptual understanding of the environment and its relationship to human activity.

Implicit in the three papers' observations is the point that are environment is non-constant, has causal power, and is anything but inert. The environment, which naturally air quality is a part of, effectuates meaningful change in the cognitive ability, life expectancy, health, and labor productivity of humans. What makes air pollution an especially powerful force is the fact that one's use of it isn't a matter of personal choice, it doesn't reflect a true option. One doesn't decide to breathe one day to breathe or not to, it's quite literally a fundamental, necessary condition of existence (I'll presume that existence is desirable axiomatically). Not breathing isn't a choice, and unless one is willing to move their entire life to another area, which is impossible or near impossible for many, then they have to suffer the consequences of an environment that both is shaped by human activity and shapes human activity.

The intersectional impacts of pollution deserve extensive further research and discussion, as it's now clear that the environment is just like other determinants of outcome. We don't all live within the same environment, even within the same cities; pollution, average temperature, and other factors vary significantly even across relatively small geographic areas and is often correlated with certain demographic distributions of humans. Once we've recognized and calculated the often extremely localized effects of certain types of pollution, one of the next questions that must be asked is "who is this affecting?" The answer is rarely (if ever) "everyone equally."

Christopher Watt

I found these articles super fascinating, particularly in thinking about the negative externalities of fossil fuel emissions as we have discussed in both this class and my Public Policy and Public Finance class with Professor Naven. We are seeing more and more evidence for why the market is overproducing fossil fuels with marginal social costs exceeding private costs by orders of magnitude. I found the article on particulate matter and their effects on health to be particularly interesting. As we produce more and more emissions with the burning of fossil fuels and release of other air pollution, the incidence of asthma and other respiratory illnesses is increasing, making those born with the condition more vulnerable to illness and harms due to the intake of more emissions throughout their life.
One of the most startling statistics form this Science article was that "PM is a key ingredient of polluted air and is estimated to kill more than 500,000 people each year." The diversity of harms beyond asthma to include cardiovascular disease and other pulmonary ailments is tragic: so many people, particularly those with vulnerabilities due to preexisting health conditions, are vulnerable to pollutants in their every day environments which they have largely little control over.
Whenever discussing Particulate matter, I always think back to distributional justice issues discussed in POV101 with Professor Pickett, particularly the work of Janet Currie on EZ Passes at Toll Plazas and the disproportionate harms faced by low income households that live along highways and near toll plazas. I saw Mikki cited this in her post. I find it both troubling because of the injustice against poor populations, as well as encouraging because of the simple solutions that can be used to address these types of issues: namely, in this situation, an easy pass. Of course, I am sure many consumers are only considering the convenience benefits when they purchase a pass rather than the health impacts, but I am hopeful that we can come up with creative solutions like this one to address similar environmental justice issues that are detrimental to all but disproportionately harm those with the least resources.

Lucas Roberton

When reading the first paper, I came to the same conclusion as the authors did based on the data: that the social cost of air pollution is probably being underestimated based on its impacts on cognitive skills. Combining this with the fact that we are likely underestimating just how bad our air pollution makes for a rather concerning realization that we could be severely underestimating costs/ damages in multiple areas.

The second paper raised concerns with me from the research perspective. In the conclusion of the paper, it says "We need to determine which chemical components are most important." However the paper also outlines how there can be many different components of particulate matter. It seems to me that these two things don't mix well, as PM having so many possible damaging components could require huge amounts of research that may go unfunded or simply ignored. In my opinion, while finding out what in PM is doing the damage is important, I would argue that we know well enough that is harmful and therefore should be more focused on eliminating it.

What stuck out the most to me in the third paper was that this experiment was conducted in an area that didn't have any large point sources of air pollution, but rather was mostly subject to pollution from automobiles. Even without large point sources, there was still a significant negative impact found, which made me consider how much more having large point sources such as factories would impact respiratory health. Especially considering that large point sources are often in areas that also have traffic, I think it would be important in considering how much more damage is done by air pollution on both children and adults.

Patrick Sullivan

The second article I think is the most pressing in our current situation. Individuals who are more susceptible to airborne diseases such as particulate matter are at increasing risk due to pollution and we are seeing the consequences. These weak respiratory systems are clearly being seen to be a cause for concern in public health with the rise of COVID-19. Those that are born with respiratory conditions are being pummeled by this disease while those who weren’t are strong and healthy. If we clean up the air creating cleaner living conditions for children and adults than we can better protect ourselves from the rise of pandemics such as this. We are now living in a state where we are suffering from these weaker immune systems due to the rise in pm in local communities. I feel that when we look back at this disease and subsequent ones to follow, we are going to see how much these poor living conditions actually effect human health. While these diseases are strong and deadly the conditions and health hazards that we have created are making the situation with COVID-19 exponentially worse. Sorry for the lack of depth but the Coronavirus is taking up a lot of my mental capacity.

Dani Murray

Overall, all three articles were fascinating. I was most drawn to the last paper: "Acute effects of low levels of ambient ozone on peak expiratory flow rate in a cohort of Australian children." I myself suffer from sports induced asthma. My asthma always seem get to worse in the summer and better in the winter. I believe this is because I spent majority of time during the summer outdoors with my family and friends. Whether it is relaxing by the pool, going for a hike, or sitting around a campfire. In CO, pollens can get out of control which certainly has an effect on my asthma. One of things I found most interesting about this article was the fact that 27.3% of the children involved in the study decided to withdraw. The total number of children observed in the study was only 125. Are only 125 participants sufficient? This study was conducted in 1999. I wonder if the study were to be conducted again today, 20 years later, would the results change? I found a similar paper, published in 2006, which addressed how exposure to environmental tobacco smoke, outdoor air Pollutants, and increased pollen has influenced the rate of asthma. The results of the paper were no surprise and did lead to an increase of asthma. I would be very interested to conduct a study on the student body of W&L. How does the seasonal effects of pollen and levels of ambient ozone effect the students in Lexington, VA?


Lauren Paolano

I also agree with Patrick that the second article, Air Pollution-Related Illness: Effects of Particles by André Nel seems most significant due to our current situation with the rise of the pandemic, COVID-19. The article states that some individuals may be more prone to the development of inflammation, asthma, and allergic responses, because of mutations in the genes involved in the induction of the antioxidant defense. Other conditions that increase susceptibility to disease include old age, preexisting chronic heart and lung disease, diabetes mellitus, all of which are associated with stress and inflammation.
Relating this article back to COVID-19, my older sister currently lives in New York City where there are 95 confirmed cases. In Nassau County on Long Island, 40 people now have the virus. My parents live in Long Island and my mom suffers from respiratory issues and my dad has diabetes. My sister has been told from her consulting firm to currently work from home, but she has made the decision to stay in her apartment in New York City in order to prevent the spread of germs to my older and more susceptible parents. Even if my 25-year-old sister doesn’t currently show systems, there is a chance she can have coronavirus. By her interacting with older and less healthy individuals, she can spread the germs by being in public spaces and utilizing public transportation. From the article: Young and Unafraid of the Coronavirus Pandemic? Good for you. Now stop killing people, the author states his opinion closing the piece, “it’s the civic and moral duty of every person, everywhere, to take part in the global effort to reduce this threat to humanity. To postpone any movement or travel that are not vitally essential, and to spread the disease as little as possible.” As of today, New York City is restricting most public gatherings of more than 500 people. As many schools and universities are going online or completely shutting down schools, it’s important to consider if it’s worth it to go back to our hometowns where the spread of illness becomes a risk to our parents and other strangers while traveling through public areas.


Valerie Marshall

In the paper, the Impact of Exposure to Air Pollution on Cognitive Performance, I thought the finding that men and women are affected by air pollution differently by a statistically significant factor to be very interesting. In this paper, it stated how men, especially older, less educated men, experience more negative cognitive effects from air pollution than women do. The theory behind this finding was that air pollution has a stronger effect on white matter than gray matter, and since men have a smaller amount of white matter activated during intelligence tests, their cognitive performance would be greater affected by small disturbances in this white matter that is being affected by pollution.

I did some additional research on this topic of gender differences in response to air pollution, and was surprised by the number of studies conducted on this topic. One study I looked at in particular evaluated an aggregate of studies on the effects of air pollution to men and women https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2831913/ . This study reported opposite findings of the study we read for class, that air pollution has stronger effects on women than men. Studies have found that air pollution better predicts death among women than men and that air pollution causes more hospitalizations for respiratory illness among women and girls than men and boys. Given that this study and the one we read for class looked at different types of health effects from air pollution (cognitive impairments versus respiratory illness), I am not suggesting that these studies are not in contradiction of each other. What I found particularly interesting about the paper on air pollution’s effects on men versus women was the reason why women and men experience different effects, because the reason both comes from sex and gender differences. Biological explanations for women’s increased adverse respiratory response to air pollution stem from their smaller airways and greater airway reactivity. These biological differences however are not the full story. Studies looking at gendered explanations for the stronger effect of air pollution on women than men include the fact that women tend to be poorer, perform more household tasks that increase their exposure to many indoor air pollutants like cleaning solvent and combustion exhaust, and differences in health-care seeking and illness management behaviors. Reading about these studies on why women have worse reactions to air pollution than men made me wonder about the study on air pollution and cognitive performance and if there are any gender differences, in addition to sex differences, causing men’s cognitive performance to be more affected by air pollution than women’s.

Adam Harter

What’s great about these two research papers is that they use longitudinal data. This allows for the researchers to get rid of problems with omitted variables. When you have one person changing over time, you don’t have to worry about them taking two completely different life paths that would skew your data. Instead, researchers can bring together the data over time and create clear correlations between two factors.

Longitudinal data seems really solid to me, but a flaw I thought of was people dropping out over time. While investigating the differences between the longitudinal data collection withdrawal rates in the cognitive performance and Australian PEFR papers, I noticed something odd. In the Australian study it gives the following numbers in the “Composition of the cohort” paragraph:

• 148 Children Enrolled
• 40 withdrew (25 in first three months and 23 excluded because they had less than thirty observations)
• Remaining 125 Children comprised three groups

Looking at the numbers listed out in this way, I started to notice some pretty obvious things. If 40 withdrew, then why is 25 because of dropping out in the first three months and 23 having less than thirty observations add up to 48. The most reasonable explanation is that there was some overlap, and they failed/didn’t feel the need to mention. Which sounds good to me, so moving on. Next, however, I could not get over why if 148 children enrolled and 40 withdrew, why are there 125 remaining children. Shouldn’t the number of remaining children be 108? I don’t feel qualified to call Jalaludin and co. out on bad science or claim I know enough about longitudinal survey data to know if occurrences like this are common, but I do feel confused. And I would have appreciated an explanation, so I won’t be kept at night wondering where in the world did those 17 kids come from.

Allie Case

What I found most interesting about the articles by Zhang et al. is the that air pollution affects gender disproportionately. The idea that the negative externalities of climate change affect the population at a disproportionate rate is not something new, for example we saw it with poor communities in connection with MTR (Hendryx) as well as with low SES families being closer to harmful pollutant sites (Currie). However, I thought the data in Zhang’s research that showed the difference in cognitive decline between the genders especially within the older age range really surprising. Furthermore, if I did know there was a difference in results based o n gender, I would have hypothesized the women to have lower test results as women have a 1 in 6 chance after age 60 of developing Alzheimer’s (My Brain) and over ⅔ of the American population that has Alzheimer’s are women (My Brain).

With these facts in mind, it makes it even more surprising that the cognitive decline was seen more prominently in men- something Zhang addresses in the additional appendix which I found online. Without knowing the full background/science behind it, it seems to have something to do with the differences between the amounts of gray and white matter in the brain. Math tests require more activation from the gray matter, while the reading/verbal tests require more from the white matter. So it is not about the amount of matter, rather how much is activated. During reading/verbal tests (or types of that nature), the white matter in women is activated at a rate 10 times greater than men. There is also literature to suggest air pollution reduces the amount of white matter. So, if you combine an extremely low activation rate + potential density reduction from air pollution, this could be one theory as to why older men performed significantly worse than women on the reading/verbal tests.



Noah Gallagher

This is becoming a moment sentiment, but I was genuinely surprised by the amount of damage caused by this pollution. I had expected there to be lung damage caused by the particles, but I did not expect the damage to people's cognitive functions. That's one of the more disturbing things that I had heard - and a terrible negative externality that gets passed along to people in developing nations.

I've also been surprised to read more about the ozone hole, and how it is not completely filled. At least in past courses and throughout my education, it's been treated as an issue of the past, not as one that it headed in the right direction. That said, the ozone hole was the smallest on record this past year, which is one good piece of news.

Along the lines of air pollution, I was trying to figure out which form of transportation polluted the most per person, expecting it to be air travel, and I came across a bunch of information about the amount of pollution that cruise ships generate - apparently they generate a ton of soot and other small particles that end up in people's lungs.




All three papers circle around the conceptual framework of human capital theory. Investments in human health directly contribute to overall economic productivity. This idea was stressed multiple times both in my development economics class last semester, as well as my current health economics in developing countries class this term. That air pollution causes extreme detriments to physical and cognitive health is no surprise, but it is still extremely concerning.

As a chronic seasonal allergy sufferer myself, I was intrigued by the effects of air pollutants—in addition to increases in global temperatures—on the growing amount of pollen each year. A study that examined the effects of temperature increases on pollen production found that future pollen seasons will grow in length anywhere from 3-22 days (https://rmets.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/joc.820). This wide range is appropriately alarming, but demonstrates another way in which climate change will increase adverse health outcomes.

Today we are seeing the effects of detriments to health on human capital and cumulative economic productivity. Schools, offices, sports are all being halted in an effort to restore global health and slow increasing rates of the spreading pandemic. These papers and this global crisis all point to the importance of health and welfare as the primary factors of production.


After reading "Acute effects of low levels of ambient ozone on peak expiratory flow rate in a cohort of Australian children" by Bin B Jalaludin, Tien Chey, Brian I O’Toole, Wayne T Smith, Anthony G Capon, and Stephen R Leeder, I was surprised at the misspelling of “Australian” as “Australin” by ResearchGate in the article title. On a more serious note, I was intrigued as to how this information and research has not made its way to doctors and immunology offices in the United States. As an individual with asthma, I have done more peak expiratory flow rate tests than I can count. When at home, the test involves a small plastic funnel that you blow into as hard as you can. A small red needle moves depending on how forcefully you are able to expel the air from your lungs. When you're at the immunology or allergist office, you place a large electronic straw that is connected to a computer into your mouth. When a grainy GIF of a birthday cake appears on the computer screen, you blow as hard as possible, attempting to extinguish all of the candles (I have never been able to blow out all of the candles). The whole point of the test is to measure how asthma is affecting your lung capacity and elasticity. Every time I had a poor performance my doctor always blamed pollen count, elevated Immunoglobulin E (IgE) levels, or “allergy season”. Not once did they discuss the fact that the immunology office, my apartment, and my high school were all in downtown Chicago which got a “F” rating from The American Lung Association’s 2018 State of the Air Report. This paper was written 20 years ago by Australian researchers and published in a British scientific journal. Immunologists in the United States need to do a better job reading international literature and implement the findings into their everyday work with patients to better address their health needs.

Jalaludin, Bin B, et al. “Acute Effects of Low Levels of Ambient Ozone on Peak Expiratory Flow Rate in a Cohort of Australian Children.” International Journal of Epidemiology, 2000.

Ruppenthal, Alex. “Chicago Gets ‘F’ Grade in 2018 Air Pollution Report.” WTTW, 20 Apr. 2018, news.wttw.com/2018/04/20/chicago-gets-f-grade-2018-air-pollution-report.

Ashley M Johnston

What really surprised me in these pieces was specifically from “Air-Pollution Related Illness: Effects of Particles” was that the most harmful particles, the smallest ones, are not regulated, while larger particles are. It seems to me that if there is support to regulate larger particles it should not be that difficult to regulate all particles. Because of the source of the particles coming from transportation, I could see there being resistance from the vehicle and transportation industry. I looked to see if regulation has been imposed since 2005 and fine PM is included to be regulated in the Clean Air Act.
However, there does not seem to be a way to enforce the regulations (of course I’ve only done minimal research). The only “enforcement” for states that do not meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards is that they have to produce a plan of how to meet the standards, but there does not seem to be any enforcement of that plan that I could see. Granted these links seem to be about 4 years old, but I can’t imagine enforcing has gotten stricter with the current administration. Because of this lack of action, I’m sure the amount of deaths caused by PM has only increased. The article said that 500,000 people die each year from PM related deaths and it seems that little is being done to counteract this detrimental effect even 15 years later.

Sydney Goldstein

The commonality between all three of these articles is that they discuss the impact of environmental issues caused by pollution/pollutants on human health with two of the articles focusing on physical health and one on cognitive function.

What I find to be very interesting is that most of time pollution tends to be validated by interest groups and politicians on the grounds that economic productivity is important, and that stopping the use of fossil fuels that cause pollution in their direct use as well as in their acquisition or dissipation, would devaste the economy and cause GDP to fall. While this is unlikely due to the availability of substitutes that aren’t much more expensive (and if fossil fuel weren’t so subsidized might even be cheaper)and are readily available, in this argument I will entertain the idea that there aren’t cheap substitutes. As we know from Econ 100 GDP per capita is a measure of a country’s output that accounts for the population. Productivity is a key driver of economic growth that can be measured in GDP per capita. Productivity can be increased (thus increasing GDP per capita) through improvements in technology or through increased labor productivity.

The point that I’m getting at here is that since an increase labor productivity causes a growth in GDP per capita, and the converse is true: a decrease in in labor productivity would cause a decrease in GDP per capita. Pollution that impacts cognitive health would decrease labor productivity and thus decrease GDP per capita. The same applies to pollution that effects physical health. For example, imagine a construction worker who develops a respiratory or heart condition due to pollution. The construction worker would not longer be able to work as effectively at a physically demanding job as that worker would be able if healthy. So, since labor an an input to most economic activity and labor would be less productive, output would also decrease. Thus, in accounting for how much the use of fossil fuels promote economic productivity one must also consider how it decreases productivity, which arguably would substantially lower the benefit of its use in favor of cleaner alternative that wouldn’t impact labor productivity.

The scope would be even greater when considering childhood defects such as cardiovascular problems as mentioned in previous articles since parents would 1) likely have to take time off from work (less labor) to take the child to doctor appointments, 2) that the child will be a less productive laborer due to physical ailments, and 3) other potential factors such as time missed from school due to doctors appointments that would cause the child to be less productive in the future.

Bridget Bartley

All three of these articles present sound significant evidence that supports the necessity of enactment of policies regarding the reduction of emissions. These are stats that really do not surprise me atll, simply dissapoint. The fact that knowledge of significant, economic findings of pollution’s detrimental effects on health (from several different angles) is surpassing 20 years upsets me. When will enough be enough? An issue I can not help but to think about in addition to these problems themselves is the way they differentiate among socioeconomic classes. Lower income individuals and families are not only hit harder by such health issues, they are also disproportionately affected by such pollution conditions. That combination frightens me.
I know coronavirus has been the talk of the town recently, but the voices of those students who do not have the capability to continue online, those who cannot up and leave campus to go home, among many others are voices that simply are not being heard enough. It is crucial, whether it be in approaching a global pandemic such as coronavirus or the global detriment to health that exists because of pollution, to create solutions that are feasible for all and that are really helping all. I do not have any specific suggestions for such types of encompassing solutions at the moment, but I do believe in the necessity for them.

Matt Condon

All three of the articles for tomorrow’s class were incredibly interesting and informative, but the first article evaluating cognitive performance with high levels of air pollution in China particularly caught my attention. The data collected and presented in this article is astonishing, as nearly every single factor and category tested demonstrated a negative relationship between low air quality and test performance in a statistically significant way. The data shown here reminded me of some of the articles about the negative health effects of coal mining communities in Appalachian United States, and this issue is remarkably more concerning because it is on such a massive scale. Given the prevalence of COVID-19 in the news and now our daily lives, it was impossible for me to read this article and not consider the applications of the virus to this situation. In the past few weeks, it has been made relatively well known that the coronavirus has ceased a large portion of production in China, and that lack of production has led to a significant and unprecedented improvement in Chinese air quality. Since this paper discusses how long-term exposure to air pollution has a far worse effect on cognitive performance than short-term exposure, I was curious to see if there could possibly be any long-term benefits of the coronavirus on health with regards to air quality. I looked to see if I could find any evidence that the coronavirus could have some sort of positive effect in this capacity, but what I found was quite the opposite. I came across an article (link below) that discussed how COVID-19 may have some positive effects on air quality in the short-run, but the overall air quality impact will likely be negative in the long-run. In the short-run, manufacturing slows, and pollution decreases as production stalls and less people commute to work or travel by plane, and this will temporarily be beneficial for air quality. However, as prices of petroleum and other energy forms that produce large quantities of carbon emissions become cheaper as the global economy declines, individuals and corporations are likely to invest more in these more common energy sources than cleaner ones, delaying a switch to safer, cleaner sources of energy.


Jacob Thompson

I found each of these articles particularly interesting, as I hadn’t really considered any of the negative externalities discusses in them prior to reading them. I was very surprised by the first article, as I had no idea air pollution had that much of an impact on cognitive abilities. Pairing these externalities with the more commonly known health and environmental ones, pollution poises an even bigger threat to humanity. I feel if data such as the kind displayed in the first article were more commonly known, people would be more incentivized to cut down on air pollution, as it directly affects them rather than affecting the environment around them. I found the second article to be much more intimidating, especially the fact that 500,000 people die each year from this. However, I feel that these health issues are just as important as the cognitive effects, and potentially even more so. It baffles me that there are people that are capable of reading articles like these and still refusing to admit that the world needs to change in terms of the way we address pollution. While both the first and the second article present extremely pressing issues, I argue that the second article is much more relevant to us at present, as way too many lives are being lost due to the level of air pollution. That being said, with the real interest rate currently at a negative, it is the ideal time to borrow money in order to develop more efficient items, such as more efficient cars. However, I’m sad to say that I doubt that this idea will actually come to fruition, as enough people simply aren’t ready enough to admit the need for change.

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