Prevailing winds - A decades-long fight to bring clean air standards in line with environmental health science offers lessons for today.(Harvard School of Public Health News, Fall 2012)
Also discussed here: An Association between Air Pollution and Mortality in Six U.S. Cities(7 page pdf, Douglas W. Dockery, C. Arden Pope, Xiping Xu, John D. Spengler, James H. Ware, Martha E. Fay, Benjamin G. Ferris, Jr., and Frank E. Speizer, The New England Journal of Medecine, Dec. 9, 1993)
And here: Harvard Six Cities Study Follow Up: Reducing Soot Particles Is Associated with Longer Lives(Harvard School of Public Health Press Release, Mar. 16, 2006)
Today we recall a paper published 20 years ago that caused a major shift in national public policy for regulating cleaner air and lowering emissions of fine particulate matter. Until it was published (in 1993), the link between mortality and air quality had not been established. After it was published, based on the survival rates in six cities over 14-16 years, new PM 2.5 standards were introduced that “would prevent 15,000 premature deaths annually”.
What is particularly interesting and relevant today to the “debate” about climate change is the need to present scientific data in a clear unambiguous manner (as it was in the six cities case) to avoid the delays introduced deniers looking for insignificant errors in raw data (which has been the situation for the last decade with the climate change issue). The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
should pay attention!
“We provided the basis for quantifying how many hospital visits, how many asthma attacks, how many COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease] cases, how many heart attacks, and how many deaths were associated with these air pollutants,”
“Residents of Steubenville, Ohio—the city with the dirtiest air—were 26 percent more likely to die prematurely than were citizens of Portage, Wisconsin, the city with the cleanest air.”
“The effects of air pollution were about two years’ reduction in life expectancy….It was much, much higher than we had expected.”
“The EPA claimed the new PM2.5 rules would prevent 15,000 premature deaths annually and produce other huge benefits, among them preventing 250,000 incidences of aggravated asthma, 60,000 cases of bronchitis, and 9,000 hospital admissions every year.”
“because of Six Cities, it is conventional wisdom that particulate matter contributes significantly to a wide variety of illnesses across the spectrum of life, from asthma and bronchitis to sudden infant death syndrome and lung cancer.”
“We knew that if we released the data, it would be endless aggravation and defending against attacks….To have a hostile group combing through your data looking for anything to attack you about was not something any of us relished.”
“In 2009, Dockery and colleagues Arden Pope (now at Brigham Young University) and Majid Ezzati (now at Imperial College London) demonstrated that from 1980 to 2000, reductions in exposure to fine particulate matter had increased average American life spans by 1.6 years…If you got rid of all cancers, the net effect on average life expectancy would be two years.”