Costs of Health Damage from Atmospheric Emissions of Toxic Metals: Part 1-Methods and Results

Risk Anal. 2016 Nov;36(11):2081-2095. doi: 10.1111/risa.12599. Epub 2016 Mar 10.


Significant quantities of toxic metals are emitted to the air by the incineration of waste, as well as by the combustion of coal and oil. To optimize the regulations for their emissions one needs to know the cost of their damage. That requires an impact pathway analysis, with realistic dispersion models, exposure-response functions, and monetary values. In this article we explain the method and assumptions and present results for arsenic, cadmium, mercury, and lead, the most important toxic metals in terms of damage cost. We also estimate their contribution to the damage cost of waste incineration and electric power from coal for typical situations in Europe. The damage costs of As, Cd, and Pb are much higher than previous estimates because of a large number of new epidemiological studies, implying more and more serious health effects than what had been known before. New cost-benefit studies for the abatement of toxic metal emissions are advisable. The discussion of the epidemiological studies and the derivation of exposure-response functions are presented in two companion articles, one for As and Cd, the other for Hg and Pb.

Keywords: Arsenic; cadmium; damage cost; exposure-response functions; external cost; lead; mercury; toxic metals.