Friday, January 10, 2014

Study: ‘No Statistical Correlation’ Between Fine Airborne Particles, Premature Death

There's no evidence to support the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) longstanding claim that fine airborne particulate matter measuring 2.5 micrograms or less (PM2.5) is killing thousands of Americans every year, according to the first comprehensive study of its kind.

The study, entitled “Airborne Fine Particulate Matter and Short-Term Mortality,” was released on last month. It compared air quality data collected statewide by the California Air Resources Board to 854,109 death certificates issued by the state Department of Public Health documenting 94 percent of all deaths in California between 2007 and 2010.

The study’s author, Johns Hopkins-trained biostatistician Steve Milloy, used a traditional epidemiological approach in an attempt to duplicate EPA’s findings, but found “no correlation between changes in ambient PM2.5 and mortality” from any cause of death.

“EPA says that when PM2.5 levels go up, people die every day,” Milloy told “But if PM2.5 is killing people, my data would show it, especially in Los Angeles, which has some of the worst air quality in the U.S. Not only was there no relationship there, I found a negative correlation in the LA area.”

“The lack of correlation was confirmed by examination of unusual spikes in PM2.5 and mortality. No spike examined indicated any sort of relationship to the other variable,” Milloy noted in the study.  In fact, in some cases PM2.5 levels “are trending downward, [while] deaths are trending in the opposite direction.”

“If a significant causal relationship between PM2.5 and mortality existed, that relationship should have been visible in this study. But it was not,” he concluded.

Milloy also found “no evidence” to support EPA claims that the elderly and those with heart and lung disease were “more vulnerable than the general population to the effects of PM2.5.”

The findings are at odds with EPA’s longstanding claim that breathing particles 1/30th the diameter of a human hair is deadly. Since 1997, that claim has been central to EPA’s regulation of particulate matter under the Clean Air Act, and is currently used to justify additional stringent regulations on emissions from vehicles, factories, farms, power plants and even wood-burning stoves.

“An extensive body of scientific evidence indicates that breathing in PM2.5 over the course of hours to days (short-term exposure) and months to years (long-term exposure) can cause serious public health effects that include premature death and adverse cardiovascular effects,” EPA states.

In 2011, former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson testified before Congress that reducing particulate matter would have “an identical impact to finding a cure for cancer.” A total of 574,743 Americans died of cancer that year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

And in a Feb. 2012 letter to House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton (R-Fla.), Jackson’s successor, Gina McCarthy, then former assistant administrator in EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, wrote that “there is no threshold level of fine particle pollution below which health risk reductions are not achieved by reduced exposure.”

Milloy told that he did the study because EPA refused to release any of the taxpayer-funded research data underlying these claims.

“My study opened it up to questioning. Anybody can get this data and see whether there’s a relationship. If they get a different answer than I did, we can go back and see what happened,” he said. “That’s the scientific method.”

“As it stands now, only EPA-funded researchers do the work and review the work, and nobody gets to see the data. These are very expensive regulations, and the alleged benefits are entirely based on this PM/death relationship.”

Last August, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee issued its first subpoena in more than two decades, seeking what chairman Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) called “the secret science [EPA] uses as the basis for costly air regulations.” But EPA has only partially complied with the congressional subpoena, according to a committee spokesman.


Americans with less education have shorter life spans - research

Consistent with the observation that there is a general  syndrome of biological fitness which includes high IQ. It has long been known that smart people live longer and are healthier.  And IQ is mostly inborn

Americans who have never finished high school are now sicker than ever, and have much shorter life expectancy rates. In fact, those with no high school diploma are expected to die nine years earlier than someone with a college degree. A strong link between health and education are more significant nowadays versus how they were looked at previously according to a policy brief by the Virginia Commonwealth University Center on Society and Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Even though the life span in the US is on the rise, Americans who do not have a high school diploma are facing much turmoil in terms of their health. Life expectancy has dipped down for Caucasians, especially white women who do not have 12 years of basic schooling. On top of it all, if low rates of education are present then it usually means higher amounts of diseased and disabled people, thus placing a lot of pressure on a person’s mental health.

Americans that are 25 years of age with no high school diploma are statistically expected to pass away nine years earlier than college graduates would. One vivid illustration of how the land of the free is being affected is by looking at the level of diabetes. By the year 2011, the amount of diabetes had gone up just 7 percent in college graduates versus 15 percent in adults that had not graduated from high school.

Research noted in the policy brief points out that being educated does not only increase the life expectancy rate, but also saves money and makes for a more productive economy. People with very little education face higher medical expenses and are not as productive in the workplace—indicating that poor education is pricey for employers by and large.

On the flipside, health advantages of a decent education offer greater opportunities to get health insurance, and a much better salary to afford a healthier way of living. "I don't think most Americans know that children with less education are destined to live sicker and die sooner," Steven H. Woolf, M.D., director of the VCU Center on Society and Health said, "It should concern parents, and it should concern policy leaders. In today's knowledge economy, policymakers must remember that cutting 'non-health' programs like education will cost us more in the end by making Americans sicker, driving up health costs and weakening the competitiveness of our economy."

Woolf and his team hope, through the center’s Education and Health Initiative, they can help make people more aware of the connection between health and education. In the near future, the facility will distribute briefs on why investing in one’s education is also an investment on their overall health.


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