Further Information

Particulate matter in ambient air and mortality: toxicologic perspectives | Laura C. Green, Sarah R. Armstrong
Article Published: 2003/05/28

Type: Ecological
Published By: Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology 38 (2003) 326–335

Further Information

As it happens for any oppression, prohibition and social control need to have a "noble" justification. Today the one that is preferred by far s the cry “it saves lives” – regulation and control (often to extinction or to bankruptcy) “saves lives.” We are not supposed to reflect that those “saved” lives exist exclusively on computer models. Not one of the “I save lives” boasters has ever been able to show that one actual, physical life has been saved by the generally employed expensive regulation, control, or prohibition. However, one (always ignored) thing is unquestionably true, and it is a fundamental principle of toxicology: it's the dose that makes the poison.

“U.S. regulations that set standards for acceptable concentrations of respirable particulate matter (PM) in outdoor air, particularly total fine particulate matter (PM2:5), are based largely on the belief that current concentrations cause death and illness, and that reducing these concentrations will save lives. Because the mortality risk estimates from important observational epidemiologic studies are extremely weak, derived from studies unable to control for relevant confounding causes, and inconsistent by location, toxicologic and clinical information is necessary to judge the likelihood and degree to which such findings are causal. Toxicologic data on typical forms of pollution-derived PM strongly suggest that current ambient concentrations in the U.S. are too small to cause significant disease or death. We review here the results of inhalation studies using concentrated ambient particles, diesel engine exhaust particulate matter, and sulfate and nitrate salts, and find no evidence that moderate concentrations are lethal.”

“Reducing acid precipitation, improving visibility, and applying available pollution control technology might be reason enough for the proposed rules, depending on one’s criteria for regulatory decision-making. To predict that lives will be directly saved in the process, however, is to flout the weight of scientific evidence to the contrary. It is promising more than can likely be delivered.”

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