Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ozone levels have sizeable impact on worker productivity

Ozone pollution is a pervasive global issue with a wide range of opinion on acceptable levels. While policy makers agree that regulating ozone smog reduces hospitalizations and mortality rates, researchers at Columbia wanted to know if it also affects job performance.

They studied the impact of pollution on agricultural workers using daily variations in ozone levels. Their results show that the pollution had significant negative impacts on their productivity, even at levels below current air-quality standards in most parts of the world.

The researchers found that a 10 ppb (parts per billion) change in average ozone exposure results in a significant 5.5 percent change in agricultural worker productivity.

"These estimates are particularly noteworthy as the U.S. EPA is currently moving in the direction of reducing federal ground-level ozone standards," said study author Dr. Matthew Neidell, PhD.

President Obama has said he would not support a proposal by the EPA to tighten the federal ozone standard because it would pose too heavy a burden on businesses.

The study findings suggest that environmental protection is important for promoting economic growth and investing in human capital. This is the first study to examine the direct impact of pollution on worker productivity. It's published in the American Economic Review.

Photo: freedigitalphotos.net

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