Assessing the public health benefits of reduced ozone concentrations

Environ Health Perspect. 2001 Dec;109(12):1215-26. doi: 10.1289/ehp.011091215.


In this paper we examine scientific evidence and related uncertainties in two steps of benefit-cost analyses of ozone reduction: estimating the health improvements attributable to reductions in ozone and determining the appropriate monetary values of these improvements. Although substantial evidence exists on molecular and physiologic impacts, the evidence needed to establish concentration-response functions is somewhat limited. Furthermore, because exposure to ozone depends on factors such as air conditioning use, past epidemiologic studies may not be directly applicable in unstudied settings. To evaluate the evidence likely to contribute significantly to benefits, we focus on four health outcomes: premature mortality, chronic asthma, respiratory hospital admissions, and minor restricted activity days. We determine concentration-response functions for these health outcomes for a hypothetical case study in Houston, Texas, using probabilistic weighting reflecting our judgment of the strength of the evidence and the possibility of confounding. We make a similar presentation for valuation, where uncertainty is due primarily to the lack of willingness-to-pay data for the population affected by ozone. We estimate that the annual monetary value of health benefits from reducing ozone concentrations in Houston is approximately $10 per person per microgram per cubic meter (24-hr average) reduced (95% confidence interval, $0.70-$40). The central estimate exceeds past estimates by approximately a factor of five, driven by the inclusion of mortality. We discuss the implications of our findings for future analyses and determine areas of research that might help reduce the uncertainties in benefit estimation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Air Pollution / economics
  • Air Pollution / prevention & control*
  • Asthma / etiology
  • Asthma / prevention & control
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Female
  • Forecasting
  • Health Care Costs*
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality
  • Oxidants, Photochemical / adverse effects*
  • Ozone / adverse effects*
  • Public Health*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Oxidants, Photochemical
  • Ozone