Ozone levels influence worker productivity
Ozone, even at levels below current air-quality standards in most parts of the world, has significant negative impacts on worker productivity, a new study has found.
Researchers in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health assessed the impact of pollution on agricultural worker productivity using daily variations in ozone levels.
Their findings suggest that environmental protection is important for promoting economic growth and investing in human capital in contrast to its common portrayal as a tax on producers.
Ozone pollution continues to be a pervasive global issue with much debate over optimal levels. While policy makers routinely note that regulating ozone smog leads to many health benefits like reduced hospitalizations and mortality rates, Matthew Neidell, PhD, associate professor at the Mailman School and principal investigator, set out to investigate whether lower air pollution might also affect job performance.
Until this research, there had been no systematic evidence on the direct impact of pollution on worker productivity.
The researchers found that a 10 ppb (parts per billion) change in average ozone exposure results in a significant 5.5 percent change in agricultural worker productivity. "These estimates are particularly noteworthy as the U.S. EPA is currently moving in the direction of reducing federal ground-level ozone standards," said Dr.Neidell, PhD.
The study has been published in the American Economic Review.