Modeling variability in air pollution-related health damages from individual airport emissions

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In this study, we modeled concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ozone (O3) attributable to precursor emissions from individual airports in the United States, developing airport-specific health damage functions (deaths per 1000 t of precursor emissions) and physically-interpretable regression models to explain variability in these functions. We applied the Community Multiscale Air Quality model using the Decoupled Direct Method to isolate PM2.5- or O3-related contributions from precursor pollutants emitted by 66 individual airports. We linked airport- and pollutant-specific concentrations with population data and literature-based concentration-response functions to create health damage functions. Deaths per 1000 t of primary PM2.5 emissions ranged from 3 to 160 across airports, with variability explained by population patterns within 500 km of the airport. Deaths per 1000 t of precursors for secondary PM2.5 varied across airports from 0.1 to 2.7 for NOx, 0.06 to 2.9 for SO2, and 0.06 to 11 for VOCs, with variability explained by population patterns and ambient concentrations influencing particle formation. Deaths per 1000 t of O3 precursors ranged from −0.004 to 1.0 for NOx and 0.03 to 1.5 for VOCs, with strong seasonality and influence of ambient concentrations. Our findings reinforce the importance of location- and source-specific health damage functions in design of health-maximizing emissions control policies.

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