Public health and economic risk assessment of waterborne contaminants and pathogens in Finland
Juntunen, Janne; Meriläinen, Päivi; Simola, Antti (2017)
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This study shows that a variety of mathematical modeling techniques can be applied in a comprehensive assessment of the risks involved in drinking water production. In order to track the effects from water sources to the end consumers, we employed four models from different fields of study. First, two models of the physical environment, which track the movement of harmful substances from the sources to the water distribution. Second, a statistical quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) to assess the public health risks of the consumption of such water. Finally, a regional computable general equilibrium (CGE) model to assess the economic effects of increased illnesses. In order to substantiate our analysis, we used an illustrative case of a recently built artificial recharge system in Southern Finland that provides water for a 300,000 inhabitant area. We examine the effects of various chemicals and microbes separately. Our economic calculations allow for direct effects on labor productivity due to absenteeism, increased health care expenditures and indirect effects for local businesses. We found that even a considerable risk has no notable threat to public health and thus barely measurable economic consequences. Any epidemic is likely to spread widely in the urban setting we examined, but is also going to be short-lived in both public health and economic terms. Our estimate for the ratio of total and direct effects is 1.4, which indicates the importance of general equilibrium effects. Furthermore, the total welfare loss is 2.4 times higher than the initial productivity loss. The major remaining uncertainty in the economic assessment is the indirect effects.
Risk assessment, Waterborne diseases, Waterways modeling, Public health, Economic modeling