Valuation of Environment-Related Health Risks for Children

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Author(s):
Anna Alberini, Graham Loomes, Milan Scasny, Ian Bateman
Publication Date :
01 Dec 2010
Pages :
150
ISBN :
9789264038042 (PDF) ; 9789264068100 (print)
DOI :
10.1787/9789264038042-en

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Is the value of reducing environmental risk greater for children than for adults? If so, what does this mean for policy makers? This report, the final output of the Valuation of Environment-Related Health Impacts (VERHI) project, presents new research findings on these key environmental policy questions.

The authors estimate a "VSL" (Value of a Statistical Life) for children and adults based on new methodological approaches for valuing children’s health. The survey work is distinguished by its international dimension (surveys were conducted in the Czech Republic, Italy and the United Kingdom) and by the extensive development efforts undertaken.

The result: Two new survey instruments based on different methodological approaches; new estimates of the VSL for adults and children; analysis of the effects of context and other factors on risk preferences; presentation of novel ways to communicate risk, including a variety of visual aids; and insights that identify interesting paths for further study.

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    Foreword
    Epidemiological studies suggesting a causal relationship between exposure to specific environmental pollutants and adverse health effects in children have flourished in recent years. Concern for children’s health risks from environmental pressures is reflected in the numerous examples of laws and regulations aimed at protecting children’s health.
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    List of Acronyms
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    Executive Summary
    Epidemiological studies suggesting a causal relationship between exposure to specific environmental pollutants and adverse health effects in children have flourished, particularly with respect to air pollution. Concern for children’s health risks from environmental pressures is reflected in the numerous examples of laws and regulations aimed at protecting children’s health.
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    Introduction: The VERHI Project and its Goals
    Epidemiological studies suggesting a causal relationship between exposure to specific environmental pollutants and adverse health effects in children have flourished, particularly with respect to air pollution.1 While the evidence is far from definitive, it is becoming increasingly clear that children are particularly vulnerable to certain kinds of environmental health risks. Concern for children’s health risks from environmental pressures is reflected in the numerous examples of laws and regulations aimed at protecting children’s health [see Scapecchi (2007) for an overview].
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    The Valuation of Environmental Health Risks
    Environmental policy affects human health by reducing environmental risks that result in either premature mortality or non-fatal ill-health. People attach value to the reductions in health risk associated with environmental policies, and valuing such benefits can be undertaken using either revealed preference or stated preference methods. Depending on the nature of the environmental pressure and health impact, it has been found that health benefits can represent a majority of benefits of policy interventions. However, most such studies have been done using adult samples, and there is a need for similar estimates for children.
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    Valuing Health Risks for Children – The Research Challenges
    There are a number of methodological complications which arise when valuing health risk reductions. These include issues associated with: the elicitation of preferences from third parties; household decision-making and composition; the low probability and unfamiliar or uncertain nature of the risks faced; the effects of different characteristics or types of risk; and, the discounting of future benefits for latent health impacts. In some cases these complications are likely to be most acute for the valuation of risk reductions for children.
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    New Approaches to Survey Design and Implementation
    Given the methodological complications associated with the valuation of health risk reductions for children, a considerable amount of survey development work was undertaken in the VERHI project. This involved innovative ways to communicate risk, present scenarios of wealth-risk trade-offs, and incorporate a rich set of alternative risk characteristics and types of risk reduction. Two different survey instruments were developed, one involving a conjoint choice experiment (Italy and Czech Republic) and the other a chaining methodology (United Kingdom and Czech Republic). In both cases contingent valuation methods were also applied, and in the Czech Republic a method involving direct "person trade-offs" was applied.
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    Survey Results
    Value of Statistical Life (VSL) estimates both for children and adults are presented. Analysis of the data indicates (qualified) support for evidence for a ’child premium’, which is consistent with previous literature. This evidence is more robust in the case of the chaining instrument. Moreover, the effects on the estimated VSL of a large number of risk characteristics, demographic and economic factors, and programme attributes were obtained, and the main results are summarised. For instance, it is clear that context matters, but it plays a different role in the case of children and adults, with less variation across context for children than for adults.
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    Conclusions and policy implications
    While it is clear that there is no single ratio which can capture differences in risk preferences for children and adults, there is some evidence that the VSL for a child is greater than that of an adult. This has implications for policy evaluation and prioritisation, perhaps resulting in certain policy interventions passing benefit-cost tests when this would not have been the case with the use of an undifferentiated VSL. However, it is clear that further work is required.
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