America’s air is cleaner as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown, and that’s likely to reduce the number of premature deaths caused by pollution, according to a new study.
The number of such deaths is set to drop by about 360 per month while current conditions persist, according to a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper. That’s a consequence of lower carbon emissions as Americans shift to working from home and adjust their shopping habits — leading to less travel and power consumption.
By far the biggest beneficiary is the Los Angeles metro area, with New York City a distant second, the study found.
The researchers estimate that the monetary equivalent of these changes would be about $5.5 billion a month, based on standard statistical assumptions that place the value of a life at $9 million, and the social cost of carbon at $50 per ton.
To be sure, the virus-induced lockdown will have other secondary effects on public health too, potentially leading to many more deaths.
For example, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control warned last week of a “notable decrease in orders” for childhood vaccines including measles under the emergency conditions. And Merck & Co. says there’s been a sharp drop in prescriptions for cancer medications because social distancing measures have reduced access to health care providers.
Your news needs your support
Since the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis, The Japan Times has been providing free access to crucial news on the impact of the novel coronavirus as well as practical information about how to cope with the pandemic. Please consider subscribing today so we can continue offering you up-to-date, in-depth news about Japan.