ZEW Discussion Papers
Pollution Exposure and Infant Health: Evidence from Germany
Coneus, Katja and C. Katharina Spiess (2010), Pollution Exposure and Infant Health: Evidence from Germany, ZEW Discussion Paper No. 10-079, Mannheim. Download
Almost all western industrialized countries have introduced some measures for pollution abatement that are supposed to promote health. Our analysis focuses on the impact of pollution exposure on infant health, because particularly children are very sensitive to pollution. As a child’s metabolism is regulated differently than that of an adult, it needs, relatively speaking, more energy and oxygen. Children take in relatively more food per kilogram and therefore relatively more pollutants. Furthermore, they breathe relatively more per kilogram of their bodyweight and, as a result, the respiratory tract is stressed more by pollutants.
We examine the impact of outdoor and indoor pollution on children’s health from birth until the age of three years in Germany. Therefore, we use representative data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP), combined with five air pollution levels. These data are provided by the Federal Environment Agency and cover the years 2002-2007. We observe five different pollutants (CO, NO2, SO2, O3, and PM10) on a (half-) hourly basis. We are able to follow the effect of pollution exposure on a child’s health during the first three years of life, accounting for time-invariant and unobserved neighbourhood-specific and mother-specific characteristics. Our results suggest a significantly negative impact for some pollutants on infant health during early childhood. In comparison to outdoor pollution, indoor pollution seems to be more harmful directly after birth, while the relationship between indoor and outdoor pollution changes later in childhood. Since smoking is one source of producing carbon monoxide and thus affects child health negatively, our results further support the advice to parents of young children not to smoke. Moreover, the results underline the efforts made on the regional and national level to reduce pollution levels. As pollution levels are higher in urban areas, environmental policies should focus particularly on reducing pollutants in these areas in order to improve child health.
Keywords: indoor and outdoor pollution, health, early childhood