Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Does remediation save lives?

Does remediation save lives? - on the cost of cleaning up arsenic-contaminated sites in Sweden.

Forslund J, Samakovlis E, Johansson MV, Barregard L.

Environmental Economics, National Institute of Economic Research, Stockholm, Sweden.

Sci Total Environ. 2010 Jul 15;408(16):3085-91. Epub 2010 May 1.


Sweden has only just begun remediation of its many contaminated sites, a process that will cost an estimated SEK 60,000 million (USD 9100 million). Although the risk assessment method, carried out by the Swedish EPA, is driven by health effects, it does not consider actual exposure. Instead, the sites are assessed based on divergence from guideline values. This paper uses an environmental medicine approach that takes exposure into account to analyse how cancer risks on and near arsenic-contaminated sites are implicitly valued in the remediation process. The results show that the level of ambition is high. At 23 contaminated sites, the cost per life saved varies from SEK 287 million to SEK 1,835,000 million, despite conservative calculations that in fact probably underestimate the costs. It is concluded that if environmental health risks are to be reduced, there are probably other areas where economic resources can be used more cost-effectively.

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