What air pollution actually costs us?

Daria Dubois
3 min readMar 15, 2021


In the United States alone, air pollution from burning fossil fuels is linked to an estimated $610 billion in economic losses annually including costs for disability, asthma, preterm births, sick leaves, child deaths, and adult deaths. Since the working-age for countries like the United States is between 15 to 64 years old, it means that government spends most of its money on supporting children before 15 and elderly after 64, which shows how critical child death rate to the economics of the country. In the US there is an estimate of 230,000 premature deaths that happen annually. The United States population is going older each year and the birth rate also going down being 12 birth per 1000 people as of 2021.

The U.S. population today, at the start of 2020, numbers just over 331 million people. This means $1812 dollars per person is spent on the issues linked to pollution, and not considering their own expenses on health losses.

Photo by Photoholgic on Unsplash

$1812 per person is spent each year by the US government only on the consequences of the air pollution.

If government devotes about 0.2% of the federal budget to EPA(Environmental Protection Agency), which is about $9 billion dollars as of 2020, that makes about $27 dollars per capita devoted to EPA annually. Only 12% of that is categorized as the issue of air pollution, which makes it $3.2 per capita annually. That’s 2% out to annual standard Netflix subscription and a cost of 22 minutes of a drive with an average US regular gas rates at $2.852.

Only 0.00024% of the federal budget assigned to solve an actual issue, which is $3.2 per person annually or 22 minutes of a car drive. Whereas the average miles Americans driving annually is 14425 miles, 656 times more than we can afford!

Whereas the defense system takes up 14% of the federal budget, which is more than $1600 per capita.

It definitely looks like the biggest impact can be made on the personal level and on the level of each community and city rather than by the support from the government. And while people who support environmental initiatives and volunteer thus save federal money, they need to be better supported. As of now, the government helps citizens only by giving a tax credit for the use of solar panels and use of the electric vehicles, such as Nonbusiness Energy Property Credit and Energy Star credit, which are still very low. The majority of the supporting programs for the environment represent a credit system with zero-interest for the first number of months. In my opinion, it isn’t enough to support citizens who chose to cut their own comfort for the better of the entire community and federal budget. There are can be systems in place where citizens can get rewarded by using the bike more and driving less, spending less gas, eliminate wood and coil burning, construct ecologically safe and use organic cleaning products.

The best way to solve the air pollution issue is on the local level, by doing it ourselves and by involving the community.