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Evaluating Efficiency-Equality Tradeoffs for Mobile Source Control Strategies in an Urban Area

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In environmental risk management, there are often interests in maximizing public health benefits (efficiency) and addressing inequality in the distribution of health outcomes. However, both dimensions are not generally considered within a single analytical framework. In this study, we estimate both total population health benefits and changes in quantitative indicators of health inequality for a number of alternative spatial distributions of diesel particulate filter retrofits across half of an urban bus fleet in Boston, Massachusetts. We focus on the impact of emissions controls on primary fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions, modeling the effect on PM2.5 concentrations and premature mortality. Given spatial heterogeneity in baseline mortality rates, we apply the Atkinson index and other inequality indicators to quantify changes in the distribution of mortality risk. Across the different spatial distributions of control strategies, the public health benefits varied by more than a factor of two, related to factors such as mileage driven per day, population density near roadways, and baseline mortality rates in exposed populations. Changes in health inequality indicators varied across control strategies, with the subset of optimal strategies considering both efficiency and equality generally robust across different parametric assumptions and inequality indicators. Our analysis demonstrates the viability of formal analytical approaches to jointly address both efficiency and equality in risk assessment, providing a tool for decisionmakers who wish to consider both issues.

Keywords: Diesel particulate filter; environmental justice; fine particulate matter (PM2.5); inequality; mobile source

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2009

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