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A Health Upside of Natural Gas

A working paper (PDF; abstract) from economists Resul Cesur, Erdal Tekin, and Aydogan Ulker explores the effects of increased natural gas use on infant mortality:

In this paper, we use the variation across space and time in the expansion of natural gas infrastructure in Turkish provinces using data between 2001 and 2011. Our results indicate that the rate of increase in the use of natural gas has resulted in a significant reduction in the rate of infant mortality in Turkey. In particular, a one-percentage point increase in the rate of subscriptions to natural gas services would cause the infant mortality rate to decline by 4 percent, which could result in 348 infant lives saved in 2011 alone. These results are robust to a large number of specifications.

The authors outline two ways through which the effect may occur:

Note that replacement of coal by natural gas can result in lower infant mortality through two channels. As demonstrated by our instrumental variables analysis, there are significant external benefits of improved air quality associated with the use of natural gas, as opposed to other fossil fuels such as coal. But it is also likely that there are significant private benefits enjoyed by the subscribers of natural gas services since they would be exposed to lower levels of indoor air pollution.