The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued the latest version of the Environmental Benefits Mapping and Analysis Program – Community Edition ( or BenMAP-CE). An open source computer program, the BenMAP –CE tool calculates the number and economic value of air pollution related to death and illness. This tool incorporates a database, which includes concentration-response relationships, population files as well as the health and economic data required to quantify the effects of air pollution. BenMAP-CE also allows users to upload their own data or pre-loaded US datasets.
BenMAP-CE estimates the health and economic impacts that result from the improvement of air quality (specifically ground level ozone and fine particulate matter). The effects of air pollution result in the following impacts that increase in terms of the number of people affected:
- Lung function decrease, inflammation, and cardiac effects;
- Respiratory symptoms, medication use, and asthma attacks;
- Doctor visits, school absences, and lost work days;
- ER visits, hospital admissions, heart attacks; and
These impacts are often represented by a pyramid that describes how the incidence and severity of fine particle and ozone-health impacts are related. Health outcomes toward the bottom of the pyramid (lung function decrease, inflammation and cardiac effects) are less severe and affect a larger portion of the population, while more severe impacts such as ER visits, hearts attacks and death affect a smaller portion of the population.
The BenMAP-CE tool quantifies these impacts and uses the following sources of data to calculate health impact functions:
- Modeled or monitored air quality changes;
- Baseline incidence rates; and
- An effect estimate
BenMAP-CE also calculates the economic impact or value of air quality changes utilizing both “cost of illness” and “willingness to pay” metrics. Using the expenses that a person must incur for an air pollution related hospital admission, the “cost of illness” metric includes the value of medical costs and lost work, however not the value a person may place on pain and suffering associated with the event. The “willingness to pay” metric accounts for direct costs as well as the value a person may place on pain and suffering, etc.
Essentially, the BenMAP-CE tool is used to answer to following two basic questions:
- What is the burden to human health of total air pollution?
- What are the benefits of policies and regulations that reduce air quality by a given amount?
The first question is answered by conducting health burden analyses, which in most cases, estimates the health impacts of total air pollution levels. The second question is answered by estimating the avoided impacts from air pollution changes associated with changes in air pollution levels after the policy or regulation has be implemented.
The EPA has provided a number of articles dealing with how the BenMAP-CE tool has been used along with a guideline and additional information on use of this unique tool.
Should you have questions regarding the BenMAP-CE tool or other environmental concerns, please contact me at (919) 459-5225 or firstname.lastname@example.org.