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Valuing the benefit of reduced exposures to environmental health risks requires assessment of the willingness to pay for the risk reduction. Usual measures typically estimate individual local rates of substitution between money and the reduced probability of the adverse health impact. Benefit-cost analyses then aggregate individuals’ willingness to pay to calculate society’s willingness to pay for the health risk reduction benefit. The theoretical basis for this approach is well established and is similar for mortality risks and health outcomes involving morbidity effects. Researchers have used both stated preference methods and revealed preference data that draw on values implicit in economic decisions. Continuing controversies with respect to valuation of environmental health impacts include the treatment of behavioral anomalies, such as the gap between willingness-to-pay and willingness-to-accept values, and the degree to which heterogeneity in values because of personal characteristics such as income and age should influence benefit values. A considerable literature exists on the value of a statistical life (VSL), the local tradeoff between fatality risk and money, which is used to value mortality risk reductions. Many VSL estimates use data from the United States for regulatory analyses of environmental policies, but several other countries have distinct valuation practices. There are empirical estimates of the benefits associated with reducing the risks of many environmental health effects, including cancer, respiratory diseases, gastrointestinal illnesses, and other health consequences that have morbidity effects.


Pierluigi Cocco

The fight against agricultural and household pests accompanies the history of humanity, and a total ban on the use of pesticides seems unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future. Currently, about 100,000 different chemicals, inorganic and organic, are currently in the market, grouped according to their function as insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, fumigants, rodenticides, fertilizers, growth regulators, etc. against specific pests, such as snails or human parasites, or their chemical structure—organochlorines, organophosphates, pyrethroids, carbamates, dithiocarbamates, organotin compounds, phthalimides, phenoxy acids, heterocyclic azole compounds, coumarins, etc. Runoff from agricultural land and rain precipitation and dry deposition from the atmosphere can extend exposure to the general environment through the transport of pesticides to streams and ground-water. Also, the prolonged bio-persistence of organochlorines generates their accumulation in the food chain, and their atmospheric drift toward remote geographical areas is mentioned as the cause of elevated fat contents in Arctic mammals. Current regulation in the developed world and the phasing out of more toxic pesticides have greatly reduced the frequency of acute intoxications, although less stringent regulations in the developing world contribute to a complex pattern of exposure circumstances worldwide. Nonetheless, evidence is growing about long-term health effects following high-level, long-lasting exposure to specific pesticides, including asthma and other allergic diseases, immunotoxicity, endocrine disruption, cancer, and central and peripheral nervous system effects. Major reasons for uncertainty in interpreting epidemiological findings of pesticide effects include the complex pattern of overlapping exposure due to multiple treatments applied to different crops and their frequent changes over time to overcome pest resistance. Further research will have to address specific agrochemicals with well-characterized exposure patterns.