Using Vital Statistics Natality Data to Assess the Impact of Environmental Policy: The Examples of Superfund, the Toxic Release Inventory, and E-ZPassEPA Grant Number: R834793
Title: Using Vital Statistics Natality Data to Assess the Impact of Environmental Policy: The Examples of Superfund, the Toxic Release Inventory, and E-ZPass
Investigators: Currie, Janet
Institution: Princeton University
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Project Period: May 1, 2011 through April 30, 2014
Project Amount: $492,103
RFA: Exploring Linkages Between Health Outcomes and Environmental Hazards, Exposures, and Interventions for Public Health Tracking and Risk Management (2009) RFA Text | Recipients Lists
Research Category: Human Health , Health
This study will investigate the extent to which geocoded Vital Statistics Natality data from birth certificates can be used to assess the impact of environmental policy changes. These records cover millions of births over long periods of time. They include information about maternal background and birth outcomes as well as information about the residential location of mothers. The project will use changes in regulations as “natural experiments” to identify the effects of environmental policy.
The hypothesis to be investigated is that these large and comprehensive data sets can shed useful light on the effects of environmental policy. The specific policies to be investigated include cleanups of hazardous waste (Superfund) sites, changes in information about toxic releases as tracked in the Toxic Release Inventory, and the implementation of E-ZPass at toll plazas on busy roadways.
This project will use a unique data base of Vital Statistics Natality records for all births in five large states between 1989 and 2007. The research will involve linking mothers to information about nearby environmental hazards. It is also possible to link births to the same mother, so that the effect of changes in potential exposure can be assessed. The data will be analyzed statistically using STATA. Potential confounders will be controlled both by including detailed controls for maternal background and location, and by comparing subsequent births to the same mother.
The study will show how an existing comprehensive data resource (the Vital Statistics Natality Data) can be used to track the changes in infant health that occur as a result of environmental policy changes. The research will also provide guidance on the distances at which effects of potential exposure can be reliably detected, and about which outcome measures can be reliably associated with environmental exposures in this type of administrative data. The data are expected to show that fetal health is a sensitive indicator of health, and one that can be tracked at low cost because of existing data.