Study: Polluted air linked to premature births is costing billions
A new study from the NYU Langone Medical Center examined economic costs associated with air pollution that is linked to premature births and found that the total cost has now eclipsed $4.33 billion.
Researchers studied the approximate 16,000 premature births in the U.S. linked to polluted air and scrutinized the economic costs -- both increased medical fees and a loss of productivity -- associated with the births.
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Hospital costs & lost economic productivity
According the study, $760 million of the $4.33 billion sum came in the form of costs associated with prolonged hospital stays and also the long-term use of medication.
The remainder of the total cost -- $3.57 billion -- is due to lost economic productivity, researchers said. The lost productivity comes in multiple forms, but appears mostly due to physical and mental disabilities suffered by premature babies.
"Air pollution comes with a tremendous cost, not only in terms of human life, but also in terms of the associated economic burden to society," -- Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP, professor at NYU Langone and lead study investigator.
A slight decline in premature births
The study noted that while the number of premature births in the U.S. has declined in recent years, the U.S. still trails other developed countries in this area. The percentage of premature births hit a high in 2006 (12.8 percent) but has since declined to 11.4 percent (2013).