"What the study says is when you are designing and evaluating (transportation) policies, you should take into account the pollution impacts, because they do matter," says Katherine von Stackelberg of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, a co-author of the study. She says people at risk are those sitting in traffic and others exposed to the polluted air.
Traffic congestion experts have long warned that pollution caused by idling vehicles on crowded roads was harming Americans' health.
Now, for the first time, researchers at Harvard University have quantified the damage: They say that congestion in the USA's 83 largest urban areas last year led to more than 2,200 premature deaths and a related public health cost of at least $18 billion.
"Our estimates of the total public health cost of traffic congestion in the U.S. are likely conservative, in that they consider only the impacts in 83 urban areas and only the cost of related mortality and not the costs that could be associated with related morbidity — health care, insurance, accidents and other factors," the researchers at the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health report.