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Is This Armageddon? The Economic Impact Behind the Apocalyptic Haze in New York City

Is this Armageddon?! Nope. It's New York City.

This isn't Matt Damon's Mars. This is Matt Damon's New York City.

Remember all those pools, sports practices, and games that were shut down last week because of “smoke”? Sounded pretty crazy, right? Well, the wildfires from Canada were actually that bad. If you guys remember from the Weather app, the wildfire smoke was so toxic that it was labeled purple, which is the fourth worst on the air quality scale. But you know what’s even crazier? These wildfires not only affect the environment and our health, but they also have a direct impact on the economy and our financial health.

Although air pollution is considered an environmental issue, it affects the economy more than we think. First, air pollution adds enormous costs to the economy. Air pollution equals more hospitalizations, leading to increased healthcare costs. According to a study by Harvard researchers, a small increase in air pollution can create annual healthcare expenses of $100 million due to increased hospitalizations and deaths. Healthcare bills on average can increase by almost $2,500 per family. Overall, the hospitalization and healthcare costs caused by air pollution causes the U.S. to spend $800 billion per year on air pollution related matters.

And it doesn't stop there.

Stanford researchers found that 1-day exposure to smoke leads to a 0.1% decrease in one’s quarterly earnings, which translates to a loss of about $5.20. That doesn't seem like much, right? Think again. Multiply that number over the entire labor force and that amounts to ((drumroll))...$125 billion! So how does that happen? Well, wildfire smoke creates an unpleasant work environment and makes it harder to work, specifically for outdoor workers. As a result, workers tend to work less during incidents of severe air pollution, thus reducing productivity. Think about those that had to stay indoors this past week.

So here’s the thing…what can we do about it? All I know from my not-so-average research on this topic is that there is so much to unpack. Stay tuned for part 2 or 3 or…you guys get the memo.


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