In an article posted the 27th of November 2018 the Belgian newspaper De Tijd claimed that the health damages by road traffic related air pollution costs the European Union around 62 billion euros a year. This claim turned out to be mostly true.
“From a study done by European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) it turns out that the health damages by road traffic related air pollution costs the European Union around 62 billion euros a year. These health damages include sicknesses that are directly linked to air pollution such as cardiac arrests and respiratory illnesses.“
The 13-billion-euro margin is due to the use of different calculation methods. When using TRUE-based factors, the costs are 20% higher than when using COPERT as calculating criteria.
The multiple-billion-euro gap between calculation methods is quite large. Belgian bio-engineer professor Roeland Samson of the University of Antwerp, specialist in air pollution, does not question the credibility of the study. “The use of different calculation methods means that they use different factors, and different data to calculate the costs of the effects of these emissions. It is quite normal to achieve very different results from using different methods.”
“Even though a 20% margin between the two calculating methods seems significant, in research of such a large scale it is quite normal to obtain differences like these. The results of the study, while not absolute, are an orientation of the costs of traffic related emissions and are troublesome to say the least.”
Professor Luc Int Panis (University of Hasselt and Flemish Institute for Technological Research), specialist in mobility and health research, agrees that the 20% margin between the calculation methods is not that significant for such a large-scale study, he finds however that the results of the EPHA study are quite low. “Coming from an NGO you would expect their results to be higher and more shocking, to make a statement. In a study performed by the OECD they found that welfare costs from premature deaths due to air pollution amount up to 730 billion US dollars which is roughly 644 billion euros, in Europe alone. These results however were probably obtained by a different calculation method.”
Professor Int Panis concludes that the results of the EPHA study are not absolute but are also hard to check due to there not being many other studies of such a large scale.
In short, while the study’s credibility is hard to check due to its incomparable large-scale research, the air pollution experts believe that the results of the EPHA study are most likely a correct estimate of the costs of health problems due to traffic related air pollution. We conclude that this statement is mostly true.
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