CO2 and Other Pollutants

Health Benefits

Policies to reduce emissions of CO2 not only mitigate global warming but also yield improvements to public health and to protection of the physical environment, mainly through reduced emissions of NOX, SO2, CO and dust particles. These ancillary benefits have an economic significance in terms of improving health and quality of life.

Whereas CO2 emissions affect climate in the long term and on a global scale, the ancillary effects of the other emissions from fossil fuel burning are local and immediate.

Health effects associated with improved air quality typically account for 80% of the total value of the ancillary effects of Global Warming Gases emission reduction. Reduced emissions of air pollutants generate health benefits in terms of a reduction in the number of deaths brought forward each year and a reduction in the number of admissions to hospital for treatment of respiratory diseases.

Estimating the Economic Value

Economic assessments of the value of the impact on health of ancillary emissions have been undertaken by the OECD with the collaboration of the UN.

Based on this and other work, the European Environment Agency (EEA) has recently completed a major study (Nov 2011) on the economic costs of air pollution across the EU, to assist policy-makers in determining the ancillary benefits of GWG emission reduction measures. The report is available here.

Impact in Ireland

The EEA study “Revealing the costs of air pollution from industrial facilities in Europe” presents health cost impacts for all of the major industrial pollutants. These costs are further broken down on an individual country-by-country basis, for the various pollutants. The costs for the pollutants associated with clinker production (SO2, NOX and PM10) are listed in the report.

Implications for Cement, GGBS

Using the costs for the various pollutants associated with clinker production in Ireland, and the 2010 emissions figures for these pollutants from the EPA for the manufacture of Portland cement in Ireland, the following pollutant costs per tonne of clinker manufactured are determined:

Cost Parameter Value of Life Year (€) Value of Statistical Life (€)
SO2 1.28 3.55
NOX 5.24 13.86
PM10 0.30 0.84
Total 6.82 18.25

Thus, per tonne of CEM II cement manufactured, containing approximately 87 % clinker, the pollution costs are:

  • Value of Life Year (VOLY): €6.82 per tonne CEM II
  • Value of Statistical Life (VLS): €18.25 per tonne CEM II

Thus the health cost savings for using GGBS are €6.82 (VOLY), or €18.25 (VLS) per tonne of GGBS.

The national impact of the use of GGBS in Irish construction converts to health cost savings of €2.4m to €6.4m per annum, at an annual usage of 350,000 tonnes of GGBS per annum. Thus there are strong and economically significant public health reasons to specify GGBS cement in construction.

Note: Value of Statistical Life (VLS) and Value of Life Year (VOLY) are two commonly applied methods for the valuing mortality—the former is based on the number of deaths associated with air pollution while the latter is based upon the loss of life expectancy.


European Environment Agency Technical Report No. 15/2011, “Revealing the costs of air pollution from industrial facilities in Europe”, ISSN 1725–2237.

Environmental Protection Agency of Ireland: GHG Permit Holders Public Files, unpublished data for cement installations in Republic of Ireland, 2010.