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Developing the COBRA Health Impacts Screening and Mapping Tool


Highlights

  • Understanding the public health effects from air pollution emissions requires a complex process.
  • Abt developed a tool to quickly and easily estimate the monetized value of increased or reduced emissions.
  • COBRA is a free tool that has been used across the U.S. by a variety of stakeholders.
The Challenge

Estimating and monetizing public health benefits from reductions in emissions can be a complicated process requiring expertise in air quality modeling, health impact valuation and the monetization of health benefits. Because of this, researchers, modelers and decision makers often are unable  to understand the full range of benefits from technologies and policies that limit or reduce emissions in the United States.

The Approach

cobra logoOn behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Abt Associates developed the Co-Benefits Risk Assessment (COBRA) Health Impacts Screening and Mapping Tool. COBRA is a screening-level tool that allows users to estimate the air quality changes and monetized health benefits associated with reductions in ambient fine particulate matter (PM2.5) precursor emissions in any county across the continental United States.

Users can input emissions changes for a number of emissions sectors, including electric utilities, highway vehicles, natural sources and others. COBRA calculates the air quality and health impacts of these changes using:

  • A reduced form air quality model to estimate the impacts of emissions changes on ambient PM2.5 concentrations.
  • Up-to-date health impact equations that correlate changes in ambient PM2.5 to the number of cases of human health effects. 
  • Valuation functions to determine the economic value of health impacts; these functions are consistent with EPA regulatory impact analyses.


In addition to developing the tool, Abt also provides ongoing maintenance and technical support.

The Results

COBRA has been used by state and local governments, non-governmental organizations and academic researchers in a variety of analyses to determine health benefits resulting from new policies or changes in practice.

Abt has also used COBRA for many analyses, including: