Thursday, April 24, 2008

Advice to Government from the NRC – “Smog Probably Kills”

The National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academies, a private agency that advises the US government, has recently provided suggestive evidence that smog “"is likely to contribute to premature deaths." The thirteen member panel is asking that our government consider ozone reduction life saving, though they don’t thoroughly know the health effects of current regulatory standards. The report notes: "The health-benefits estimates should be accompanied by a broad array of analyses of uncertainty but should give little or no weight to the assumption that there is no causal association between estimated reductions in premature mortality and reduced ozone exposure."

The report also states "the effect of acute ozone exposure on mortality is likely to be larger than average in persons with preexisting disease, especially lung and heart diseases."

Unfortunately, the panel is under fire from the API - “The findings contradict arguments made by some White House officials that the connection between smog and premature death has not been shown sufficiently and that the number of saved lives should not be calculated in determining clean-air benefits.” The report seems to be viewed as a reproach to President Bush’s environmental policies.

The analysis was commissioned by the EPA, and is built on studies that find much plausibility in their conclusions. They have found much research that provided them with “insights to suggest the potential for a number of events by which ozone exposure could lead to increased mortality”, including inflammation of the lungs, worsening of heart disease, and damage to the airways and autonomic nervous system.

What is astounding to me as a healthcare professional is that the recommendations are being questioned. We have seen a steady increase in the incidence of adult onset asthma. Most of those cases are preceded by allergic reactions and eczema. Even in areas with cleaner air, the incidence of asthma in children has been found to be greater near freeways.

Rather than call the report a political reproach, why not advocate for studies that would completely define the issue? To me, it’s an extremely important and worthwhile investment. You can view the entire report at
What do you think?

Related: Induction of Asthma and the Environment: What We Know and Need to Know