The findings suggest that environmental protection is important for promoting economic growth and investing in human capital, in contrast to its common portrayal as a tax on producers.
While policy makers routinely note that regulating ozone smog leads to many health benefits like reduced hospitalisations and mortality rates, Matthew Neidell, associate professor at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, set out to investigate whether lower air pollution might also affect job performance.
Researchers found that a 10-parts-per-billion change in average ozone exposure results in a significant 5.5 percent change in agricultural worker productivity, the journal American Economic Review reports.
"These estimates are particularly noteworthy as the US Environmental Protection Agency is currently moving in the direction of reducing federal ground-level ozone standards," said Neidell, according to a Columbia statement.
Neidell also points out that in developing countries where environmental regulations are less strict and agriculture plays a more dominant role in the economy, the effects reported here may have a vast detrimental impact on a country's prosperity.