Environmental policy tools and evaluation

Valuing children’s health

 

Epidemiological studies suggesting a causal relationship between exposure to specific environmental pollutants and adverse health effects in children have flourished. 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,

 

The relationship between environment and children’s health has been the subject of increasing interest in recent years. From their daily behavioural patterns, adults and children are exposed neither to the same environmental risks, nor to the same level of risk. In addition, from a metabolic point of view, children are more receptive and more sensitive to pollution than adults, as their bodies are still developing. Thus, even though they are exposed to the same environmental risk and to a level a priori identical to that of adults, the body of a child can be more affected than that of an adult by this form of pollution. Recent epidemiological studies highlight the particular susceptibility of children to environmental pollution.

 

Moreover, there is no reason to believe that the economic value of an equivalent health risk reduction for children and adults is necessarily the same. There is evidence that willingness to pay (WTP) for risk reductions within adult populations differ, and thus it is likely that there would also be differences between adults (in general) and children (in general), as well as within children as a group. While there are some studies that have valued risk reductions for children, few of these relate to the “environmental” context. In the absence of specific estimates for children, cost-benefit analysis (CBA) studies of environmental policies with implications for health have used a single estimate of the value of such health risk reductions for the entire population. In order to address this problem, the OECD has undertaken a project on the valuation of environment-health risks for children.

 

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