Karen Clay (Carnegie Mellon)

Event Date

"Airborne Lead Pollution and Infant Mortality"


This paper uses U.S. Toxic Release Inventory data for 1988-2018 on industrial air lead emissions to provide national IV estimates of the effects of air lead concentration on infant mortality. The causal effect of lead on infant mortality is identified by annual variation in air fugitive lead emissions and wind speed near reporting plants, which together determine local ambient lead concentration. Unlike stack emissions, which occur routinely and may be subject to avoidance behavior, fugitive emissions occur irregularly and unexpectedly. We find a positive and statistically significant relationship between air lead concentration and infant mortality. Estimates by race are imprecise but suggest that lead exposure may be disproportionately affecting nonwhite infants. Cause of death data show that lead increases deaths from low birthweight and sudden unexplained infant death. Back of the envelope estimates indicate that declines in fugitive lead emissions prevented 34-59 infant deaths per year, generating benefits of $313-$533 million annually.

Contact Name
Lori Odenweller

Event Category