We know that the regulation leads to a safer society and that regulatory paths toward reducing pollution loads leads to a healthier society. These are simply facts. Those facts, however, can be difficult to translate from larger statistics to our personal lives. A new research paper from Nicholas J. Sanders and Charles F. Stoecker provides something that any American young man might wish to consider.
Where Have All the Young Men Gone? Using Gender Ratios to Measure Fetal Death Rates examines how pollution loads impact fetal health and concludes that the 1970 Clean Air Act Amendments (CAAA) had a rapid and rather direct impact on any legitimate 'pro-life' agenda:
calculations suggest the pollution reductions from the CAAA prevented approximately 21,000-134,000 fetal deaths in 1972.
Within just two years, the CAAA's positive impacts included 10,000s of babies born rather than fetus dying in their mothers' wombs ... per year.
This is, however, not a gender-neutral issue.
Males are more vulnerable to side effects of maternal stress in utero, and thus are more likely to suffer fetal death due to pollution exposure.
After examining changes in "ambient total suspended particulate matter (TSPs)", Sanders and Stoecker were able to calculate just how much the CAAA's reductions in TSPs impacted not just total live births, but the likelihood that a male fetus would survive to birth.
We find a statistically and economically significant association between ambient TSP levels and the fraction of live births that are male: a one unit increase in annual ambient TSP levels is associated with approximately a 0.088 percentage point change in the probability of a live birth being male, and a standard deviation increase in the annual average TSPs (approximately 35 micrograms per cubic meter) is associated with a 3.1 percentage point change. These effects are larger when considering particularly vulnerable subgroups, such as less educated mothers, single mothers, and black children.
We have long known that the Clean Air Act has led to a healthier society and that this has included decreasing the chance of a fetus dying in the womb. (As a related aside, while there have been about $500 billion in CAA costs, there have been over $20 trillion in benefits ... an over 40-to-1 ROI is pretty good, no?) At least for this reader, Sanders and Stoecker have added something new to the agenda: the CAAA had a direct impact on improving the chance for a male to be born. Thus, if you're male and under 40 years old, perhaps you should take a moment to look in the mirror and thank the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its implementation of the Clean Air Act ... that just might be the reason you're around to look in the mirror.
Hat tip to Freakonomics, who end their post with this searingly on-target question:
That's a pretty big range, but even the lower-bound is pretty striking: a minimum of 21,000 avoided fetal deaths as a result of the CAAA? It certainly makes you wonder how many fetal deaths are currently being caused by ongoing air pollution -- in the U.S. and elsewhere.