The majority of humans today live in cities, making cities the hub of human activity. Much of this activity leads to chemical emissions into the urban atmosphere causing air pollution, which in turn leads to increased death rates and higher incidence of diseases such as asthma, stroke and heart disease. What can cities do to mitigate the health impacts of air pollution? We develop a model of the US criteria pollutant NO2 for the Portland metropolitan area based on ~150 observations in summer and ~80 observations in winter. Using this model in conjunction with BenMAP (a health impact assessment tool from the US EPA), we assess the annual impact of NO2 on respiratory health in the Portland metropolitan area. Further, we explore how two different mitigation strategies, namely reducing vehicle miles traveled and increasing tree cover, implemented either at the local or city-wide scale, affect ambient concentrations of NO2 and respiratory health. We find that respiratory problems associated with NO2 exposure have an economic cost of $40 million USD annually. A 2% decrease in VMT city-wide provides an annual benefit of $37,000 USD through NO2 mitigation; and a 2% increase in tree cover provides an annual health benefit of $1.2 million USD. Given the spatial scale of mitigation provided by land cover change (100 -2000m), these mitigation strategies are ideally suited for neighborhood-scale air quality improvements.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/vivek_shandas/51/