Estimating the Health & Economic Cost of Air Pollution in the Philippines

In the Philippines, air pollution is the third highest risk factor driving death and disability due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs), and is also the leading environmental risk to health (IHME 2020). Its costs are not limited to the individual or community level, but also nationally, as air pollution-related health impacts yield corresponding financial and economic costs, which are often unaccounted for in policymaking. 

To add urgency to the issue, a growing body of scientific studies and literature are finding that air pollution is more dangerous to human health than previously thought. The World Health Organization updated its National Ambient Air Quality Guidelines (AQG) in September 2021, tightening the guidelines of annual average air pollution exposure to 5µg/m3 from 10µg/m3 for PM2.5 and to 10µg/m3 from 40µg/m3 for nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

Quantifying the impacts of air pollution on human health and the economy is important, especially in countries like the Philippines, where air pollution levels are increasing due to a growing number of fossil fuel pollution sources across various sectors. 

Our research found that air pollution was responsible for 66,230 deaths in the Philippines in 2019, of which 64,920 deaths were estimated to be adults and 1,310 children. This is significantly higher than previous estimates made for the country, aligning the impact with the most recent literature. The corresponding economic cost of exposure to air pollution is estimated at PHP 2.32 trillion (US$ 44.8 billion) in 2019, or a GDP equivalent of 11.9% of the country’s GDP in 2019. Premature deaths account for most of the estimated economic cost at PHP 2.2 trillion (US$ 42.8 billion). 

The estimated economic cost of air pollution in the Philippines.

This report covers the methodology and results of estimating the health and economic cost of air pollution in the Philippines under three scenarios: a baseline scenario, a WHO 2005 AQG-compliant scenario, and a WHO 2021 AQG-compliant scenario.

Lauri Myllyvirta, Hubert Thieriot, Isabella Suarez