By Margot Sanger-Katz and John Schwartz

Volkswagen’s diesel deception unleashed tons of extra pollutants in the United States, pollutants that can harm human health. So while many commentators have been quick to say that the cheating engines are not a highway safety concern, safety — as in health — is still an issue…

…To estimate the harm in the United States, we used two different scientific models for the effects of nitrogen oxide pollution on human health.

One comes from a sort of natural experiment, when new regulations on power plant pollution caused some counties, but not others, to cut back on nitrogen oxide pollution. The counties subject to regulation reduced their nitrogen oxides emissions by 350 tons a year.

A team of three researchers — Olivier Deschenes, Joseph S. Shapiro and Michael Greenstone — looked at the mortality rates and medical spending before and after the change. In a working paper, they found the reduced pollution was responsible for about five fewer deaths for every 100,000 people in the affected counties each year, as well as for a decrease in spending on prescription drugs. Most of the seemingly excess deaths in the higher pollution regions occurred among older Americans, though other health issues affected the young as well as the old.

The estimated Volkswagen pollution, about 46,000 tons since late 2008, is the equivalent of about 4 percent of the power plant pollution reduction they measured, meaning it could be expected to cause an estimated 106 deaths if it had similar effects.

We ran this projection by Mr. Greenstone, a professor of economics and director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, and a contributor to The Upshot. He said it seemed sensible as an estimate, but “the magnifying glass is really close.”…

Continue Reading at New York Times…

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Areas of Focus: Energy Markets
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Energy Markets
Well-functioning markets are essential for providing access to reliable, affordable energy. EPIC research is uncovering the policies, prices and information needed to help energy markets work efficiently.
Transportation
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Transportation
Mobility is central to economic activity. Yet, a lack of fuel diversity and continued demand growth have made the transportation industry a major contributor to global pollution and carbon emissions....
Environment
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Environment
Producing and using energy damages people’s health and the environment. EPIC research is quantifying the social costs of energy choices and uncovering policies that help protect health while facilitating growth.
Air Pollution
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Air Pollution
Air pollution from fossil fuel combustion poses a grave threat to human health worldwide. EPIC research is using real-world data to calculate the effects of air pollution on human health...