High Cost of Asthma Due to Traffic Pollution Estimated

MD Magazine® Staff

The cost of asthma due to traffic pollution is far higher than previously estimated, researchers report in a study published online Jan. 20 in European Respiratory Journal.

The cost of asthma due to traffic pollution is far higher than previously estimated, researchers report in a study published online Jan. 20 in European Respiratory Journal.

The researchers looked at Long Beach and Riverside, two Southern California communities with high levels of air pollution and large roads close to residential neighborhoods. To estimate costs of asthma due to traffic pollution, they took into account the number of such cases of asthma and a range of costs including morbidity associated with the condition (such as sinus and ear infections), the cost of associated medical care, and the costs incurred by parents as a result of children’s absences from school due to asthma.

They estimated that the total annual cost for a typical case of asthma was $3,819 in Long Beach and $4,063 in Riverside, with the largest portion coming from indirect costs due to children missing school, requiring parents or guardians to miss work. This translates to 7-8 percent of the average annual household income in the two communities, above the 5 percent level generally considered sustainable for family health care expenses. The researchers estimated the total economic burden of asthma and asthma exacerbations due to traffic pollution in the two communities at $18 million per year.

“Traditional risk assessment methods for air pollution have underestimated both the overall burden of asthma and the cost of the disease associated with air pollution,” lead researcher Sylvia Brandt, PhD, a resource economist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, said in a press release. “Our findings suggest the cost has been substantially underestimated and steps must be taken to reduce the burden of traffic-related pollution.”