Air Pollution and Your Wallet

This is the kind of simple, easy-to-understand relationship that should get media attention. The folks in Washington, you have been cutting EPA requirements, might even understand this.

  • Air pollution affects the lungs of pregnant mothers and their fetuses
  • Exposure to severe air pollution in the week before delivery is now shown to increase the rate of admission of newborns to neonatal intensive care units (NICUs)
  • It costs on average $3,000 per day for each day a newborn is in an NICU
  • That cost is paid by your health insurance carrier or Medicaid
  • The health insurer raises your monthly payment
  • Medicaid impacts your taxes

By the way, the rate of enrollment in Medicaid is lower for immigrants (legal or otherwise) than it is for native Americans (15% versus 16%).

So, functionally, reducing environmental standards is a tax on consumers. On you.

This is only the latest in a series of studies documenting the impact of air pollution on health.

Right now, the Administration is raising corporate profits by raising consumer costs.

It may also be no surprise that the US is the only industrialized country in which life expectancy is decreasing.

According to the American Cancer Society, the top 25 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs as defined by the Census Bureau) for clean air in terms of particulate matter are

#1: Cheyenne, WY
#1: Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, HI
#1: Urban Honolulu, HI
#4: Casper, WY
#4: St. George, UT
#6: Elmira-Corning, NY
#7: Duluth, MN-WI
#7: Pueblo-Canon City, CO
#9: Bismarck, ND
#10: Bellingham, WA
#10: Syracuse-Auburn, NY
#12: Burlington-South Burlington-Barre, VT
#13: Colorado Springs, CO
#13: Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL
#13: Wilmington, NC
#16: Grand Island, NE
#17: Anchorage, AK
#17: Cape Coral-Fort Myers-Naples, FL
#17: Gainesville-Lake City, FL
#17: Grand Junction, CO
#17: Salinas, CA
#22: Pittsfield, MA
#23: Bangor, ME
#23: Lincoln-Beatrice, NE
#23: North Port-Sarasota, FL

The bottom 25 are:

#1: Fresno-Madera-Hanford, CA
#2: Bakersfield, CA
#3: Fairbanks, AK
#4: Visalia, CA
#5: Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA
#6: San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA
#7: Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, PA-OH-WV
#8: El Centro, CA
#9: Cleveland-Akron-Canton, OH
#10: Medford-Grants Pass, OR
#11: Missoula, MT
#12: Detroit-Warren-Ann Arbor, MI
#13: Cincinnati-Wilmington-Maysville, OH-KY-IN
#14: Birmingham-Hoover-Talladega, AL
#15: Johnstown-Somerset, PA
#15: Lancaster, PA
#17: Houston-The Woodlands, TX
#18: Philadelphia-Reading-Camden, PA-NJ-DE-MD
#19: Chicago-Naperville, IL-IN-WI
#19: Indianapolis-Carmel-Muncie, IN
#19: Atlanta-Athens-Clarke County-Sandy Springs, GA-AL
#22: McAllen-Edinburg, TX
#22: Shreveport-Bossier City-Minden, LA
#24: Harrisburg-York-Lebanon, PA
#25: Knoxville-Morristown-Sevierville, TN

City size doesn’t predict whether a city appears on either list. Baltimore, Boston, Denver and Seattle are nowhere on these lists.


  1. Indulaxmi Seeni, Andrew Williams, Carrie Nobles, Zhen Chen, Seth Sherman, Pauline Mendola. Acute air pollution exposure and NICU admission: a case-crossover analysis. Annals of Epidemiology, 2019; DOI: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2019.07.008

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