Seasonal Effects of Water Quality on Infant and Child Health in India

Nidhiya Menon, Brandeis University
Elizabeth Brainerd, Brandeis University

This paper examines the impact of fertilizer agrichemicals in water on infant and child health using water quality data combined with data on the health outcomes of infants and children from the Demographic and Health Surveys of India. Because fertilizers are applied at specific times in the growing season, the concentrations of agrichemicals in water vary seasonally and by cropped area as some Indian states plant predominantly summer crops while others plant winter crops. Our identification strategy exploits the differing timing of the planting seasons across regions and differing seasonal prenatal exposure to agrichemicals to identify impacts. Results indicate that children exposed to higher concentrations of agrichemicals during their first month experience worse health outcomes on a variety of measures (infant mortality, neo-natal mortality, height-for-age z scores and weight-for-age z-scores); these effects are largest among the most vulnerable groups, particularly the children of uneducated poor women living in rural India.

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Presented in Session 157: Spatial and Environmental Factors Influencing Infant and Child Health