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The effects of increased pollution on COVID-19 cases and deaths

Claudia Persico () and Kathryn R. Johnson

Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 2021, vol. 107, issue C

Abstract: The SARS-COV-2 virus, also known as the coronavirus, has spread around the world. A growing literature suggests that exposure to pollution can cause respiratory illness and increase deaths among the elderly. However, little is known about whether increases in pollution could cause additional or more severe infections from COVID-19, which typically manifests as a respiratory infection. During the pandemic, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rolled back enforcement of environmental regulation, causing an increase in pollution in counties with more TRI sites. We use the variation in pollution and a difference in differences design to estimate the effects of increased pollution on county-level COVID-19 deaths and cases. We find that counties with more Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) sites saw a 11.8 percent increase in pollution on average following the EPA’s rollback of enforcement, compared to counties with fewer TRI sites. We also find that these policy-induced increases in pollution are associated with a 53 percent increase in cases and a 10.6 percent increase in deaths from COVID-19.

Keywords: Pollution; Regulation; Health; COVID-19 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: I10 I14 Q53 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:eee:jeeman:v:107:y:2021:i:c:s0095069621000140

DOI: 10.1016/j.jeem.2021.102431

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Journal of Environmental Economics and Management is currently edited by M.A. Cole, A. Lange, D.J. Phaneuf, D. Popp, M.J. Roberts, M.D. Smith, C. Timmins, Q. Weninger and A.J. Yates

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