Document Type

Working Paper

Date of This Version



health effects, nutrition, distributive justice

JEL Classification

I12, D63, Q51


Using county-level TRI data from 2003 to 2016, I find evidence that lead emissions in water adversely affect birth weights within the emitting county, especially with respect to the percentage of births considered low birth weight within that county (less than 2,500 grams). I find that a one percent increase in lead emissions per square mile increases the proportion of low birth weights by 0.27 percentage points. For a county with an average number of births in a particular year, this one percent increase in lead per square mile translates to an additional $475,000 in hospitalization costs from complications with delivery and perinatal care alone. My results show that lead emissions create a substantial negative externality even at relatively small quantities and may have more significant effects for those living in poverty.

Working Paper Number