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Valuing cleaner air in the developing world

In many cities in the developing world, poor air quality is a growing threat to health, as well as simply being unpleasant — just as it used to be in the cities of the developed world before the clean air programs of recent decades. APHEBA is an Analytica model designed to estimate and evaluate improved health, including reduced illness, hospital visits, and mortality, to help justify the costs of programs to reduce air pollutants. Created by Professor Luis Cifuentes of the Catholic University of Chile, with support from the US EPA and UNEP, APHEBA has been used to help asses the benefits of improved air quality in Beijing, Shanghai, Hyderabad, Santiago de Chile, and other cities in Asia and Latin America.

The Challenge

Poor air quality in the cities of the developing world is a side-effect of development, the growth of industry and the use of automobiles. Many developing world cities in Latin America and Asia are now looking at ways to clean up the air, and to justify the costs of reducing pollutant emissions in terms of the benefits to public health.

APHEBA (Air Pollution HEalth Benefit Analysis) was designed to meet this need: It quantifies the benefits of improved air quality in terms of reduced sickness and mortality in urban populations. It needed to be flexible and adaptable so that it can easily be applied to different cities. It was supported by the Integrated Environmental Strategies (IES) program of the US EPA to help groups in the developing world expand their capacity to perform environmental policy analysis themselves.

Why Analytica

"We chose Analytica because of its visual structuring and the Monte Carlo simulation for probabilistic risk assessment. The main things we wanted were flexibility and ease of modeling uncertainty. We also liked its modular nature. The application cities - Santiago in Chile, Hyderabad in India, and Beijing and Shanghai in China - each had different requirements. We found it easy to adapt the model for each one. People got it up and running very fast. It's not a black box - people can see the equations and even modify them. It's not just a model you run. You learn from it too." Professor Luis Cifuentes, team leader."We chose Analytica because of its visual structuring and the Monte Carlo simulation for probabilistic risk assessment. The main things we wanted were flexibility and ease of modeling uncertainty. We also liked its modular nature. The application cities - Santiago in Chile, Hyderabad in India, and Beijing and Shanghai in China - each had different requirements. We found it easy to adapt the model for each one. People got it up and running very fast. It's not a black box - people can see the equations and even modify them. It's not just a model you run. You learn from it too." Professor Luis Cifuentes, team leader.

The Solution

Luis Cifuentes and his colleagues at the Catholic University of Chile developed APHEBA to estimate benefits from improvements in air quality. It uses as inputs projected pollutant concentrations, including particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), sulfur dioxide and ozone. It can model a city as a single region, or up to several thousand municipal regions or cells, according to the level of detail available for pollutant levels and the demographics, health, and socio-economic status of the exposed populations. It provides a library of dose-response functions to estimate health effects as a function of pollutant concentrations - including common symptoms, morbidity, lost work-days, hospital admissions, and premature deaths - based on published research. Users can also substitute region-specific dose-response functions. All functions represent uncertainty explicitly using probability distributions. It can convert reductions in health effects into benefits using local or international values and per-capita income ratios.

APHEBA development was supported by the Integrated Environmental Strategies (IES) program of the US Environmental Protection Agency. With IES support, APHEBA has been applied to assess benefits of proposed air quality improvements Santiago in Chile, Hyderabad in India, Manila in the Phillipines, and Beijing and Shanghai in China. According to IES:

* "The project's overall goals were to hone in-country analytical skills for cost-benefit analyses, conduct a thorough and technically defensible project, and raise awareness with public policy makers, the general public, and industry."
* "APHEBA was developed by the IES Chile principal investigator for use in Chile's health impacts analysis. Subsequently, APHEBA has been used by other IES countries including China, India, and the Philippines as a result of training sessions led by the Chilean team. These training sessions highlight the ongoing South-South information-sharing and capacity strengthening efforts through IES."
* "In Beijing, China, the IES approach and results are informing efforts to improve local air quality. The air quality improvements are part of an overarching plan to make the 2008 Olympics in Beijing the world's first 'green' games."
* "Hyderabad is the fifth largest city in India with a population of 6.3 million in 2001. Hyderabad is also one of the fastest growing and mostpolluted cities in India."
* "Researchers in Santiago, Chile, for example, estimate that, cumulatively, more than 1,700 premature deaths, 150,000 emergency room visits, and 2 million asthma attacks and bronchitis cases could be avoided by implementing an IES policy scenario over 20 years. The corresponding annual value of these avoided health effects is over $700 million U.S. dollars by 2020."

The Interamerican Development Bank has also applied APHEBA to forty cities in Latin America to assess the economic value of the clean up of air quality. A current study in Santiago, Chile, is evaluating the effects of a new transportation plan for CONOMA, the Environmental Commission of Chile. It exports results to a GIS for display of results by municipality.

Authors and Sponsors

The lead author of APHEBA is Luis Cifuentes, Professor of Industrial Engineering, Catholic University of Chile in Santiago, Chile. The Integrated Environmental Strategies (IES) program of the US Environmental Protection Agency; Conama de Chile, Environmental Commission; the Interamerican Development Bank; and the United Nations Environmental Program.

For  More

Integrated Environmental Strategies of the US EPA and The Integrated Environmental Strategies Handbook: A Resource Guide for Air Quality Planning (December 2004). Also see reports on applications in Santiago, Shanghai, Beijing, and Hyderabad and a report on APHEBA.

Challenges and Recommendations for the Study of Socioeconomic Factors and Air Pollution Health Effects (355 KB, 9 pp., pdf) (October 2005) by Michelle L. Bell, Marie S. O’Neill, Luis A. Cifuentes, Alfésio L.F. Braga, Collin Green, Arize Nweke, Jorge Rogat, and Katherine Sibold with input from participants of the International Symposium of Socioeconomic Factors and Air Pollution Health Effects, Environmental Science and Policy, 8(5): 525-533.