Environmental disaster, pollution and infant health: Evidence from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill

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In 2010 the Gulf Coast experienced the largest oil spill affecting U.S. waters in history. Evaporating crude oil and dispersant chemicals can cause major health problems. This paper examines the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on air quality and infant health outcomes. Using U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) AirData, vital statistics data from National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), and a difference-in-difference methodology, we find that the oil spill of 2010 increased concentrations of PM2.5, NO2, SO2, and CO in affected coastal counties, increased incidence of low birth weight (<2500 g) and premature born infants (<37 weeks of gestation). Heterogeneity effects reveal more pronounced adverse infant health outcomes for black, Hispanic, less educated, unmarried, and younger mothers. Results are robust to a wide range of controls and robustness checks.