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In Journal of the American Statistical Association

We develop a causal inference approach to estimate the number of adverse health events that were prevented due to changes in exposure to multiple pollutants attributable to a large-scale air quality intervention/regulation, with a focus on the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments (CAAA). We introduce a causal estimand called the Total Events Avoided (TEA) by the regulation, defined as the difference in the number of health events expected under the no-regulation pollution exposures and the number observed with-regulation. We propose matching and machine learning methods that leverage population-level pollution and health data to estimate the TEA. Our approach improves upon traditional methods for regulation health impact analyses by formalizing causal identifying assumptions, utilizing population-level data, minimizing parametric assumptions, and collectively analyzing multiple pollutants. To reduce model-dependence, our approach estimates cumulative health impacts in the subset of regions with projected no-regulation features lying within the support of the observed with-regulation data, thereby providing a conservative but data-driven assessment to complement traditional parametric approaches. We analyze the health impacts of the CAAA in the US Medicare population in the year 2000, and our estimates suggest that large numbers of cardiovascular and dementia-related hospitalizations were avoided due to CAAA-attributable changes in pollution exposure.

Nethery Rachel C, Mealli Fabrizia, Sacks Jason D, Dominici Francesca


1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, Bayesian Additive Regression Trees, Counterfactual Pollution Exposures, Matching