Health


Dust to dust: How natural air pollution induces work accidents

Air pollution can increase the risk of workplace injury. Workers breathing in harmful pollutants, including dust, are more likely to lose focus, experience fatigue and even become less patient. These factors can lead to a greater risk of getting hurt, from misusing a machine or by falling over. This column takes data from Spain, exploring how dust precipitation affects workplace accidents. The authors find evidence to show that a day of dust precipitation induces an average 1.2% increase in workplace accidents, compared with days with no dust. They argue that firms and policymakers should be wary of the risks posed by pollution, both directly to people’s health but also through increasing their risk of having an accident.

Pollution solution: The role of scrubbers in cutting emissions and improving health

Air pollution hurts both people and planet, with emissions contributing to higher hospitalisations and deaths in countries around the world. Coal is particularly harmful but remains an important energy source worldwide. This presents policy-makers with a tricky trade-off between energy supply, emissions goals and human health. But technology can help. This column presents evidence from the United States, exploring how the installation of systems called ‘scrubbers’ on coal power station exhausts can reduce SO2 emissions, leading to lower instances of heart disease in nearby and downwind areas. This research could help clarify cost benefit analyses of different climate measures, while also feeding into policies promoting health.

Measuring health outcomes: A new approach

Measuring people’s health status is vital for designing effective policies that support different age groups. But economists working in this field face a difficult challenge when it comes to integrating accurate health measures into their economic models. This then makes it difficult for policy-makers to make straightforward model-based decisions. This column offers a new metric and seeks to solve the issue of measuring health statuses and their associated economic outcomes. The new approach makes integrating important health data into economic models easier, helping yield more accurate results.