Air pollution is a major threat to human health, with only 1 in 10 people globally living in areas where air pollution is below recommended levels. This study shows that exposure to bad air quality in turn substantially reduces economic output per worker, because it induces absenteeism at work and reduces individuals’ cognitive and physical capabilities.
Therefore, improving air quality can yield large economic benefits. Between 2000 and 2015, fine particulate concentration across the European Union declined by 20%, and the study estimates that this boosted EU GDP by 2.4%. Air quality improvements explain 15% of GDP growth in Europe over this period.
The study suggests that more stringent air quality regulations could be warranted based solely on economic grounds and may contribute positively to economic growth.