Children's Environmental Health Economics
Environmental regulations applied to hazardous chemicals are intended to reduce health risks associated with exposures. Regulators must consider the health costs and benefits of reducing exposures to chemical hazards. Many people who advocate for children's health feel that benefits to children should be considered separately from the general population and that our environmental health regulations should focus on protecting children--and protect them to a greater extent than we protect adults.
Economics is used to analyze the costs to achieve health benefits and to determine the monetary value of health benefits such as the quality or length of life. The use of economics in environmental decision-making is growing and even mandated by the federal government. However, there has been little environmental health economics work that addresses the question of whether there is a greater perceived societal benefit or value from protecting children compared to protecting adults; and if so, the extent and magnitude of this perception.
In 2003 the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) sponsored seminars on the topic of valuation and environmental economics in order to learn more about the valuation tools that are being used around the country.
Also in 2003 the MDH sought and received special funding from the state legislature to study how environmental health economics could be used to place a monetary value on the societal value for protecting children and adults. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's National Center for Environmental Economics and economists from academic institutions around the state worked with the Minnesota Department of Health to develop a "willingness-to-pay" analysis for the children versus adult valuation question. The collaborators designed a survey, using standard valuation techniques, to determine the dollar amounts that adults are willing to pay to protect children compared to themselves or other adults from risks of cancer. A representative sample of adult Minnesotans was surveyed during the summer of 2005. For results of the survey, see the Report on Environmental Health Economics Survey (PDF: 53KB/16 pages).
Using environmental health economics to answer policy questions such as the value that society places on protecting health is controversial. However, the information that environmental health economics provides is only one of many useful tools that help the Minnesota Department of Health understand risk perceptions and develop rules and guidelines for environmental health hazards.
The project is funded by the Minnesota Legislature as recommended by the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).
Guidance on children's environmental health valuation is provided by the US Environmental Protection Agency's National Center for Environmental Economics: Handbook on Valuing Children's Health
Plain English Reports, National Center for Environmental Economics, U.S. EPA
Background document supporting the workgroup's recommendations to CHPAC on children's health valuation issues, Office of Children's Health Protection, U.S. EPA