Infographic Shows How Many Premature Births Are Linked to Air Pollution — and Their Cost

Infographic Shows How Many Premature Births Are Linked to Air Pollution — and Their Cost
Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

Air pollution isn't just dangerous to breathe. It's also expensive. Like, $4.33 billion-a-year expensive.

A new study from NYU Langone Medical Center and the New York University School of Medicine claims that air pollution has given the U.S. an additional 16,000 premature births — accounting for about 3% of total premature births. 

The medical expenses to deal with premature-birth-associated health issues — behavioral problems, cerebral palsy, asthma, dysplasia, infections, intestinal problems and a host of others — clocks about $760 million annually. 

That's hospital stays. Medicines. The devastating costs and unforeseen emergencies that come with an immune system that wasn't, traditionally speaking, ready for action.

The other $3.57 billion, according to the study's lead author, Dr. Leonardo Trasande, accounts for what's being called "lost economic productivity" — the impact premature birth has in the long run on the workforce.

"Air pollution comes with a tremendous cost, not only in terms of human life, but also in terms of the associated economic burden to society," Trasande says. "It is also important to note that this burden is preventable, and can be reduced by limiting emissions from automobiles and coal-fired power plants."

Let's table the alleged economic impact. What's important here is — according to data from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Institute of Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — air pollution is taking a major toll on our babies. And it's doing so with ferocity in urban parts of southern California and the eastern U.S.

If $760 million a year sounds like a lot now, think of how much it will be when the number 16,000 rises — which is inevitable when you look at the state of air pollution on Earth and how companies are reacting. Forget the impact on the workplace. If we don't actively lower air pollution, we're actively stunting our livelihood. Period.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Max Plenke

Max Plenke is a staff writer at Mic, where he covers breaking news, climate science, health and the future. His work has appeared in Esquire, GQ and Wallpaper. Send story tips to max@mic.com.

MORE FROM

Hope Hicks reportedly tried to rein Trump in during explosive ‘Times’ interview. It didn’t work.

The low-profile Trump Whisperer is one of the few in the president's orbit to enjoy job security.

Scaramucci once asked Obama if he’d be softer on Wall Street. It didn’t end well.

The exchange came during a CNBC town hall on the financial crisis, two years into Obama’s presidency.

Trump blasts Hilary Clinton, Comey and ‘Amazon Washington Post’ in tweet storm

He also defended Don Jr. and called Democrats "obstructionists" with "no ideas."

What does Sean Spicer’s resignation mean for the rest of Trump’s inner circle?

Many are already wondering if Spicer's departure could portend more shakeups to come.

How the messy New York City subways are hurting vulnerable New Yorkers the most

The New York subway system is a mess — and here's who's suffering the most.

Is Sean Spicer the shortest-serving White House press secretary in history?

Spicer served just six months as press secretary — there are some cabinet members in White House history who have served mere days.

Hope Hicks reportedly tried to rein Trump in during explosive ‘Times’ interview. It didn’t work.

The low-profile Trump Whisperer is one of the few in the president's orbit to enjoy job security.

Scaramucci once asked Obama if he’d be softer on Wall Street. It didn’t end well.

The exchange came during a CNBC town hall on the financial crisis, two years into Obama’s presidency.

Trump blasts Hilary Clinton, Comey and ‘Amazon Washington Post’ in tweet storm

He also defended Don Jr. and called Democrats "obstructionists" with "no ideas."

What does Sean Spicer’s resignation mean for the rest of Trump’s inner circle?

Many are already wondering if Spicer's departure could portend more shakeups to come.

How the messy New York City subways are hurting vulnerable New Yorkers the most

The New York subway system is a mess — and here's who's suffering the most.

Is Sean Spicer the shortest-serving White House press secretary in history?

Spicer served just six months as press secretary — there are some cabinet members in White House history who have served mere days.