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No secret that environmentalists and regulators exaggerate environmental risks. Most serious health claim about air pollution is that it kills tens of thousands of Americans each year, mainly due to exposure to fine particulate matter

Move to Xi’an China to prevent dying from air pollution

By —— Bio and Archives--February 1, 2012

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The Chinese city of Xi’an has some of the worst air quality in the world. Yet its air is significantly safer than the air in US cities, according to a new study. (1)

Chinese researchers compared data on air pollution and death rates in Xi’an from 2004 to 2008. This is the city that in 2006, the World Health Organization reported as having the second worst air pollution in Asia, which means the second worst in the world. (2)

Their analysis revealed that a 10 ug/m3 increment in the 1-day lagged concentrations of PM2.5 was associated with 0.2% increases in total cardiovascular and respiratory mortality, respectively. Compared with studies of PM 2.5 and daily mortality in developed countries, their estimated effects per unit increase were relatively low. For example, a multi-city analysis including 112 US cities reported that a 10 ug/m3 increase in PM 2.5 was associated with a 1.0% increase in total mortality, a 0.9% increase in cardiovascular mortality and a 1.7% increase in respiratory mortality. (3)

The report says that as measured by the Chinese researchers, the air in Xi’an is, on average, 9-10 times more polluted in terms of PM 2.5 than the median PM 2.5 levels of the two most polluted cities in the 112 city US study (Rubidoux, CA and Los Angeles, CA).

Steve Milloy notes, “And that dirty Chinese air, according to EPA scientific practice, is safer than US air by a factor of five. This is shocking since if air pollution really was deadly, one would expect to see this phenomenon operating in high gear in the respiratory horror story that Xi’an should be.” (2)
The scientific and medical reality is that PM 2.5—even as high as it is in China—does not kill or hasten death.

Concern for PM 2.5—the primary and virtually sole justification for recent costly EPA regulations like the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), the Mercury and Toxics Standard (MAYS),and California’s diesel regulations (CARB)—has been entirely manufactured and ruthlessly exploited by the EPA for almost 20 years. Yet there is plenty of contradictory evidence.

The recent findings add to previous evidence suggesting weaker associations between health outcomes and unit increases in air pollution exposures in China than in developed countries. Six independent sources show little or no relationship between PM 2.5 and deaths in California. For example, a study by UCLA’s Dr. James Enstrom of the long-term relation between PM 2.5 air pollution and mortality followed nearly 50,000 elderly Californians over a 30-year period, from 1973 through 2002. It concluded that there was no death effect from current atmospheric levels of PM 2.5 in California.  (4)

There is also other evidence. For example, the centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s national mortality base shows that California’s mortality rate during 2000-2005 was 9 percent lower, and the Los Angeles County rate 11 percent lower than the total US age-adjusted death rate. This suggests that diesel PM 2.5 is not causing premature deaths in California. (5)

Researchers have been unable to kill animals with air pollution at levels anywhere near as low as the levels found in ambient air. As a review of particulate matter toxicology concluded: “It remains the case that no form of ambient PM—other than viruses, bacteria, and biochemical antigens—has been shown, experimentally or clinically, to cause disease or death at concentrations remotely close to US ambient levels.” (6)

It is no secret that environmentalists and regulators exaggerate environmental risks. By far the most serious health claim about air pollution is that it kills tens of thousands of Americans each year, mainly due to exposure to fine particulate matter (PM 2.5).  A multitude of studies suggest otherwise


  1. Junji Cao et al., “Fine particulate matter constituents and cardiopulmonary mortality in a heavily polluted Chinese city,” Environmental Health Perspectives, January 3, 2012.
  2. Steve Milloy, “Shocker: Chinese air pollution debunks US EPA junk science,”  January 5, 2012
  3. A. Zanobetti and J. Schwartz, “The effect of fine and coarse particulate air pollution on mortality: A national analysis,” Environmental Health Perspectives, 117(6), 898, 2009
  4. James E. Enstrom, “Fine particulate air pollution and total mortality among elderly Californians,” Inhalational Toxicology, 17, 803, 2005
  5. WONDER for US mortality during 2000-2005,” US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
  6. L.  C. Green and S. R. Armstrong, “Particulate matter in ambient air and mortality: Toxicologic perspectives,” Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, 38, 326, 2003

Jack Dini -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Jack Dini is author of Challenging Environmental Mythology.  He has also written for American Council on Science and Health, Environment & Climate News, and Hawaii Reporter.

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