Recent research suggests the burden of childhood asthma attributable to air pollution has been underestimated in traditional risk assessments, and there are no estimates of these associated costs. We estimated the yearly childhood asthma-related costs attributable to air pollution for Riverside and Long Beach, California, including: 1) the indirect and direct costs of health care utilization due to asthma exacerbations linked to traffic-related pollution (TRP); and 2) the costs of health care for asthma cases attributable to local TRP exposure.
We estimated these costs using estimates from peer-reviewed literature and the authors' analysis of surveys (Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, California Health Interview Survey, National Household Travel Survey, and Health Care Utilization Project).
A lower-bound estimate of the asthma burden attributable to air pollution was $18 million yearly. Asthma cases attributable to TRP exposure accounted for almost half of this cost. The cost of bronchitic episodes was a major proportion of both the annual cost of asthma cases attributable to TRP and of pollution-linked exacerbations.
Traditional risk assessment methods underestimate both the burden of disease and cost of asthma associated with air pollution, and these costs are borne disproportionately by communities with higher than average TRP.