Measuring the economic cost of environmental impacts on human health

There is an economic cost of the impact of a polluted environment on health. It is not only the cost of lives lost, but also the cost of years lived with a disability, of lost days of work or school, of chronic diseases to cure. 25 experts in air quality, health economics and environmental sciences as well as representatives of EU agencies and the civil society met in Berlin, Germany on 27-28 May 2014, to assess this cost and guide policy maker in reducing it by investing in prevention.

Discussions followed two main directions:

  • the economic cost of the health impacts of the environment, including monetization of health effects;
  • environmental health and economic as evidence for policy-making.

Decision-makers request more and more a quantification of health effects as a strong argument for investments. Participants agreed that there are substantial gains from protective and proactive environmental policy, which was exemplified by experiences from air quality policies. Communicating these issues effectively is instrumental for governance and local stories help making messages easily understandable and convincing.

Participants discussed initiating a topical series to combine environmental health evidence with economic analysis. Air pollution was selected as the first topic in the series, as evidence on its health effects is rich and can be used for economic evaluation. Asbestos - still a large problem in many areas of the European Region - and noise will follow.

The Third Symposium on Environmental Health and Economics was hosted by the Federal Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB), and organized by the WHO Regional Office for Europe under the auspices of the Environmental Health and Economics Network (EHEN).