Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Science update: new California study links pollution to deaths among women, diabetics, others

A new study of air pollution in California has found that women, diabetics and others appear to be at particular risk of dying from breathing fine-particle pollution like that produced by cars, trucks and buses.

The study, by researchers from the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, the University of California, Davis, and the University of California, San Francisco, was quietly published in Environmental Health Perspectives published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The researchers note that while many studies have examined links between pollution and death, relatively few have specifically examined the link between fine-particle pollution (technically known as PM 2.5) and premature death.

The study comes as the U.S. EPA is pondering whether to tighten national health standards for fine-particle pollution set in 1997. I’d argue that this new study bolsters prior recommendations by EPA career scientists and EPA’s outside science advisors, who have called for tougher national health standards than those set in 1997. An EPA proposal on the matter is expected by December.

The researchers examined people from 1999 through 2002 in nine California Counties -- Contra Costa (Concord), Fresno (Fresno), Kern (Bakersfield), Los Angeles (Los Angeles, North Long Beach, Azusa), Orange (Anaheim), Riverside (Riverside), Sacramento (Sacramento), San Diego (San Diego, Escondido, El Cajon), and Santa Clara (two in San Jose) – who make up about two-thirds of the state’s population.

Here are a few quick excerpts:

“Overall, this large, multi-county analysis provides evidence of significant associations of fine particles with daily mortality among nearly two-thirds of California’s population… short-term exposures to fine particles were associated with increased daily mortality… PM2.5-mortality associations were particularly elevated among females, whites, persons who did not graduate from high school, diabetics and for out-of-hospital deaths.”

The whole study is available at http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/members/2005/8335/8335.pdf

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