The connection between air pollution, health and welfare
Are some social groups in the Nordic countries more likely than others to suffer from illness and premature death due to air pollution, and if so: what significance does this have for the distribution of welfare in the Nordic countries?
IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute is, together with 16 other partners from the other Nordic countries, trying to answer this question within a research collaboration led by the University of Aarhus.
The overall objective of the project, named Nordic Welfair, is to enable the Nordic countries to better regulate the emissions of air pollutants and to prioritize actions focusing on those sources that have the greatest negative impact on human health; thus reducing the negative effects in the most cost effective manner possible.
Gothenburg is a very interesting area for this kind of research. Differences in life expectancy are very large between different neighbourhoods in the city, which is an indicator of unequal distribution of social resources. Air pollution affects life expectancy as well, but scientists do not currently know whether these factors work together or against each other.
Models of air pollution will be done per square kilometer in the Nordic countries, and the health effects will be calculated and valued both for economic and welfare purposes. IVL will analyse the socio-economic aspects of air quality's impact on health and wellbeing, including the different neighbourhoods within the city of Gothenburg. The project will build up a common database, which for the first time with the help of modelling will be able to calculate the concentration of air pollution and exposure with the same geographical detail for all the Nordic countries.
The research collaboration will run for five years and has been granted funding of NOK 30 million within the NordForsk Programme for Health and Welfare. The Swedish participants are IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute, Occupational and Environmental Medicine at Umeå University and SMHI.