Thursday, February 19, 2015

Study Denies Smog-Asthma Link

Upending EPA’s science on pollution and asthma
For years, environmentalists and regulators have cited childhood asthma as an excuse for ever-stricter pollution rules. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for instance, uses asthma as a pretext for nearly every “clean air” regulation issued since the 1970s.

But what if the assumed link between air pollution and childhood asthma doesn’t actually exist?

New research questions the long-held wisdom on asthma and air pollution, casting doubt over the scientific basis for EPA’s expansive regulatory agenda.

The new peer-reviewed paper, authored by a team of prominent researchers led by Dr. Corrine Keet of John’s Hopkins Children’s Center, studied over 23,000 U.S. children and found no statistically significant difference in asthma rates between those who live in inner-city neighborhoods (and are thus subject to higher pollution levels) and those who do not (once controlling for other factors). Instead, researchers concluded that poverty was a greater predictor for higher asthma rates than outdoor air pollution.
I grew up with asthma in Los Angeles back in the 50, when it's smog problem was at it's worst, and this corresponds to my experience. I didn't get asthma attacks from being outdoors; I got asthma from indoors, despite my mother's best efforts to keep the house spotless. It turned out, in hindsight, I had a "house dust" allergy, which is really an allergy to the feces of dust mites that live in bedding. Nice, I know, but there it is. A series of shots to desensitize me helped quite a bit,  I think.
The study still points to air pollution as a cause for asthma, only it’s indoor air pollution—think second hand smoke, rodents, mold, etc.—that may be the main culprit.

It’s a radical finding. The study upends more than half a century of research that assumed outdoor air pollution in cities was to blame for higher asthma rates—a hypothesis repeatedly used by EPA regulators to justify the agency’s regulations.

The study couldn’t come at a worse time for the agency. EPA is preparing to tighten national standards for ground-level ozone (the main ingredient in smog) by as much as 20 percent. To justify the move, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy argued she was “following science” to “protect those most at-risk—our children, our elderly, and people already suffering from lung diseases like asthma.”

But it’s hard to see how lowering the current ozone limit either “follows the science” or “protects those most at-risk” for asthma.
It's not really about science, it's about power.
Rather than accept Dr. Adams’ conclusions, the EPA performed an unpublished “reanalysis” of his data and decided that there was a statistically significant difference in lung function at 60 ppb after all. Dr. Adam’s response: “EPA has misinterpreted the statistics contained in my published, peer-reviewed paper.”
This is not to say I support smog.  However, as efforts to eliminate pollution of any kind reaches completion, the costs rise exponentially and the value dwindles to nothing. We have to find the "sweet spot" where costs are balanced by benefits.

Hat tip to Don Surber, by way of Ace's ONT.

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