Secret Science Under Attack — Part 2

Opinion by Kip Hansen — 24 January 2020

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In Part 1 of this two-part series, I detailed how there has been a growing furor over the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (E.P.A.’s)  proposed “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science” rule — most often referred to as the Secret Science rule.  A majority of the expressed concern about the rule deals with the Harvard Six Cities Study — which is being defended by opposing  the  proposed E.P.A. rule.  Here’s why:

six_cities_abstract_800

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This is a perfectly fine preliminary study of the topic.  It has a major finding of :

“The adjusted mortality-rate ratio for the most polluted of the cities as compared with the least polluted was 1.26 (95 percent confidence interval, 1.08 to 1.47). Air pollution was positively associated with death from lung cancer and cardiopulmonary disease but not with death from other causes considered together. Mortality was most strongly associated with air pollution with fine particulates, including sulfates.”

Conclusion:

Although the effects of other, unmeasured risk factors cannot be excluded with certainty, these results suggest that fine-particulate air pollution, or a more complex pollution mixture associated with fine particulate matter, contributes to excess mortality in certain U.S. cities.”

The study had, in total, 8,111 subjects , all white — in six different cities — roughly 1300 subjects per city.   Of these, there were 1429 deaths over the 14-16 years follow-up or about 230 deaths per city.  The city-specific rate ratios are all expressed in relation to Portage, Wisconsin.

The results?  Summarized in the original study as:

six_cities_ratios

Only the highlighted categories have Confidence Intervals (CIs) that DO NOT include the NULL (risk ratio of 1 — which indicates no difference in effect found).  All of the CIs that don’t include “1” have a range that starts very low. The chart shows clearly that it is chiefly Former and Current Smokers and those with Occupational Exposure (to gases, fumes, or dust) that show even a simple associational effect from fine-particulate air pollution.

Another look at the data from the study:

six_cities_rates

Again, we see (highlighted in PINK) that it is Current Smokers, Former Smokers (but not evenly — only  female former smokers and 10-Pack-years male former smokers), men with less than a high school education [probably a marker for socio-economic status – kh] and women with high BMIs that show even small associational effects.  ALL other classifications show the 95% CIs include the NULL effect rate ratio of 1.

The cities are listed in order of least-pollution to highest-pollution.  ONLY Steubenville — highlighted in YELLOW —  the most polluted city, has a significant result, and that only for men.

What does “includes the NULL effect rate ratio of 1” mean?

CIs_significance

CIs_sig

These two  cartoon images demonstrate that Rate Ratios that include the rate ratio of 1 are compatible with the NULL hypothesis that there is NO EFFECT.   For a result to be significant and reject the NULL of No Effect, the Rate Ratio must NOT span the rate ratio  value of 1.

What does that mean for the Six Cities study findings? 

 Very few of the statistical results in the Six Cities Study meet the requirements for being significant and rejecting the null hypothesis of “no effect”.  Those that pass this simple basic test have results that are very small and are directly related to other known causes for the posited effect — smoking, occupational exposure, low socio-economic status, and high BMI.  When comparing “more polluted cities” to the “least polluted city” ONLY ONE city,  the most polluted city —  Steubenville, Ohio —  shows any  significant effect at all.  Even with Steubenville, the effect is very small with a rate ratio of only 1.26.

For a short introduction on the topic of evaluating environmental epidemiological results, see this seminal paper:  ”The environment and disease: association or causation?” by Sir Austin Bradford Hill from the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine

Let’s look at Sir Austin Bradford Hill’s six factors for considering results:

  1. Strength of the association — The Six Cities effect findings are very small — effect ratios are not 4 times, 10 times, 40 times — the strongest of the findings between cities is only 1.26 with a CI of 1.06 to 1.50, barely missing including the null (no effect) value of 1.
  1. Consistency of the observed association: The Six Cities findings are not consistent across cities’ air pollution levels, or between genders. The greatest consistency is with smoking status — current or former — but not with air pollution levels.
  1. Temporal relationship of the association – which is the cart and which the horse?  The Six Cities study followed the cohort for 14-to-16 years.  There is no data in the published study that relates how long the subjects lived in the cities under consideration — so this factor cannot be evaluated.
  1. Biological gradient, or dose-response curve:   The rate ratios between cities — by pollution levels — do not demonstrate a dose-response curve — effects are not consistently larger as pollution levels increase, effects are not consistent between genders, and only the most polluted city shows a significant effect, and that only for men.
  1. Biologically plausible? It is biologically plausible that air pollution could cause increased mortality.  It is not biologically plausible that air pollution would only cause increased mortality in the pattern shown in the study results.
  1. Coherence — association “should not seriously conflict with the generally known facts”:  The results are coherent with some known factors:  Smoking (current or former) causes increased mortality, occupational exposure to “gases, fumes, or dust” causes increased mortality, low socio-economic status is associated with increased mortality, and high BMI is associated with increased mortality.  Extremely high levels of air pollution, think the killing smogs of London in the 1950s are associated with increased mortality.  So, it is possible that air pollution at the levels found in these six cities could cause increased mortality. However, the weak results of the study are not sufficient to show this to be the case.

This quick review of the Six Cities study is not meant to be a serious or deep-dive analysis — it is just what is seems, a quick overview of its strengths and weaknesses.  Despite claims from the Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health that this study revealed “a strong link between air pollution and mortality risk”, this review highlights why there is concern — bordering on the hysterical  — that the authors might be forced to make the underlying  data available for re-analysis by researchers not involved in the original work.

And the other studies being protected by anti-STIRS efforts?

Here’s the famous California study:

California_study_800[ click for larger image in new tab/window ]

These are Relative Risks — only those highlighted in yellow are significant.  All others have CIs that include the null effect value of 1.  The most biologically plausible effect for PM2.5, lung cancer, has the highest RR for PM2.5 of 1.103 (0.985-1.234), highlighted in pink  — vanishing small and failing the significance test.

The concern seems to be that if these results were to be re-analyzed by others, outside the original research group:   Would even these very small associations disappear?    Or would the re-analysis team deem them so small as to be irrelevant to anyone’s health?

Are such tiny effects real in the Real World?    

I am not a statistician  nor am I an environmental epidemiologist.  I do have a good head for numbers — and I understand the basic concepts discussed above.

I can see why there is concern among researchers who have been advocating that very small amounts of air pollution are dangerous to the health of Americans (and, by extension, all humans) that these studies might be re-examined in the light of rigorous and strict scientific and statistical standards and found wanting.  If they were my studies — and thus my reputation — I would be running scared at the idea that someone would really dig in, armed with all the original data,  from a duly skeptical viewpoint and expose the inherent weaknesses of the analysis and subsequent findings.

When effects are this small, it is extremely possible that the effects are not real, but are artifacts of the statistical methods used in the original analysis.  If these findings had had Relative Risks or Risk Ratios of 4.0 or 7.9 or any value that might indicate a strong association, then I would be more convinced.  But with so many of the metrics not even passing the most basic test of significance, I am concerned that the findings represent only what John P.A. Ioannidis has termed “simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias.”

We see,  in the defense of these studies,  the wrong-headed viewpoint often found in some scientific fields, including epidemiological studies, that “lots of studies finding small associational or correlational results”  are  equal in truth-value to  “one or two studies that find incontrovertibly strong results.”

High-time for Re-analysis

The problem with foundational studies such as these is that later work is based on the supposition that these studies findings are discovered truth and thus these studies’ findings are used as starting points, assumptions, in future studies.  With so many governmental regulations being based on studies such as these, maybe it is high time that the basic data from these studies — suitably cleaned of data that might identify individuals and reveal their personal health information —  be made available for strenuous re-analysis by disinterested researchers and statisticians.  This is the stated purpose of the E.P.A.’s  proposed “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science” rule.

If the evidence from the studies is strong and convincing, and their methods valid and proper,  then the studies will be upheld and their results validated.  If not, then Science might possibly begin the process of scientific self-correction.

In either case, there is no downside,  it is a Win-Win:  the state of human knowledge will be improved and advanced. 

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Author’s Comment:

This is an OPINION piece.  Please feel free to disagree with my opinion and leave comments expressing your opinion.

This Secret Science battle is very important — if the forces of common sense and rigorous science prevail, the world will be better for it.  If not, we will be condemned to be ruled by weak correlational research findings that are fueled by the desire to provide support for advocacy positions — many of which are not, in the commonly accepted sense, a reflection of the real world.

Beginning your comment with “Kip…” will ensure I see it if you are speaking to me.

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171 thoughts on “Secret Science Under Attack — Part 2

  1. All science should be required to be fully disclosed and open to analysis by anyone. If it can’t stand up under those circumstances, it is not science.

    • Yes. This.

      Amazing how those who want “junk science” to be treated as if it were ACTUAL “science” are calling those of us who believe in REAL science to be “anti-science.”

      Nope, we’re just “anti-bullshit.” Even when it comes from people who pretend to be “scientists.”

      • The main problem with the proposed rules is that *confidential medical data* would need to be release *to the public*.

        This is not a question of scientists being able to re-examine the results. It is a question of personal medical data being available for any Tim, Dick, or Harry to look at.

        If *you* participated in a study of the health effects of pollution or wind turbines, would you want *your personal* data to be released when the EPA looked at those studies?

        • Tim ==> One wouldn’t expect one’s personal medical information to be included in such studies — at least not with any identifiable personal information.

          I have worked in tech much of my life (at least when living ashore) and it is easy enough, and sensible, to create trwo databases – one with personal information if necessary to be able to re-contact subjects in the future — and one with only coded identifiers such an a subject ID number. The one file is not released nor needed to validate a studies findings.

          • Yes, Kip, not a hard concept at all, to keep people’s personal data secure.

            That’s why this complaint looks like a desperate attempt to me. Why would the people complaining not think of this first? — before panicking as if personal data would be vulnerable?

          • Robert ==> The fear is that the air pollution studies, and other studies based on sketchy epidemiology, will be overturned, setting back advocacy efforts.

        • WRONG. That is not what is being “required.” But the fact that this strawman keeps being rolled out over and over just speaks to the level of fear on the part of “activists” that the pseudo-science used to drive “policy” and needless regulations will be exposed as the steaming pile of manure that it is when it is subjected to the scrutiny that it should have been, but was not.

    • Policy decisions should only be based on a peer reviewed science, published in the Journal of Irreproducible Results.

    • This 6 cities study would appear to convincingly support the truism that –
      “There are lies, damned lies, and STATISTICS”

      • That’s always been a funny truism, where a single statistic e.g. 88.7% is taken as fact. But proper statistical analysis is the friend of good science. Unfortunately, scientists is a variety of fields only have a cursory understanding of statistic, where perhaps they took a single course at university. Public policy and the scientific community in general should no longer tolerate sloppy use of statistical methods. And the best way to do that is to open up the raw data for independent analysis. After a few public shamings of scientists and their studies, the quality of future studies is likely to improve. Sorry I don’t have a statistical probability number to go along with that.

        • Any statistic that comes back with “88.7%” probably has false precision. Not many important things are known to one part in a thousand. Having a precise number for the centre of a broad range is often misinterpreted as meaning the precise centre number is “the answer”.

          The only real solution is much better basic science education before the end of high school.

        • A really good comparison to keep pointing out is that the various physical experiment in the Large Hadron Collider in France that showed that the Higgs boson exists, and many other high quality physics and chemistry experiments are held toll a Nine Nines accuracey. That means
          1.999999999 accuracy.

          As the Two Cities study showed, biology such as the 2.5pm was lucky to show even a few results accurate to 2 decimal places. The same goes for other studies done by and for the EPA for pollution problems. The EPA’s shining moment was to reduce auto exhaust pollution enough to clear up the Los Angeles auto pollution on many days per year. LA still suffer inversions that are still significantly polluted but they are fewer and much less damaging.

          • Philo ==> The attention on air pollution had a great positive effect on air quality. The continued attention on infinitesimal air pollution is probable a waste of research dollars and effort.

      • would appear to convincingly support the truism that

        I don’t think that word means what you think it means.
        A truism is not something you consider to be true.

        • Greg, I don’t think it means what you think it means. You might be confusing “truism” with “truthiness”.

          The definitions I’ve read can all be summarized as: a statement so obvious it’s hardly worth mentioning except as a rhetorical device.

          For example, the Declaration of Independence states “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” before listing what the authors believed were truisms significant to their stated aims.

          Truisms are frequently used by people to make themselves sound smarter and, appropriately, they are frequently met with the response: “Talk about stating the #&%ing obvious!”

    • Scientific reports should be published online, complete with all data and calculations in a spreadsheet or other suitable format. No data, no calculations, no credibility.

      That approach would eliminate most of the warmist nonsense.

      For example, the Mann hokey stick (MBH98++) and other such warmist screed, where data and calculations were withheld -> an immediate disqualification would result: DQ! Done!

      • Agreed. Science “done” in the “behind the curtain” manner is not science at all.

        And should certainly NEVER be the basis of “policy” of any sort.

    • I’m worn out from listening to Adam “Shifty” Schiff ,and did not have enough energy left to read past the abstract of the Harvard Six Cities Study.

      It immediately set off my BS detector.

      It appears to focus on outdoor air pollution and smoking.

      In fact, most people spend most of their time indoors, where cooking and cleaning can expose them to more particulate matter and airborne chemical than outdoors.

      I wrote an article on the subject of indoor air pollution in April 2019 that might interest a few people here:
      https://elonionbloggle.blogspot.com/2019/04/co2-is-fake-air-pollution-consider-real.html

      • “I’m worn out from listening to Adam “Shifty” Schiff”

        You didn’t really listen to him for long did you? That would be torture! He just keep repeating the same old unsubstantiated charges over and over.

        Trump’s lawyers will put on his defense starting Saturday. That will be worth listening to. I think the Senate will take Sunday off.

        I look at Shiff and all these other radical Democrats and I always wonder: Do they really believe the lies they are telling, or are they just scoundrels deliberately lying to achieve their goals?

        Either way of thinking is problematic. If they really believe what they are saying, then they are delusional and have no business being involved in the running of the nation, and if they are just deliberately lying they are automatically disqualified from public service, as far as I’m concerned. And it’s one of the two. Neither way of thinking is conducive to good government or a happy nation. People who think like this are poison to our society.

    • Methods, procedures, data and results that are to be used to force something on people, especially by law, should be fully disclosed, as well as all that is paid for by public monies, but hardly “all science”. If I choose to study something, anything, on my own, for myself, then no one else can have any legitimate claim on it. The same applies to any private group of however many people may be involved.

      • Well, there may be exceptions to that, or SHOULD be. Think pharmaceutical research – before they start putting “product” into the prescription pad stream, they SHOULD have to fully disclose their data and methods regarding the ability of the drug to provide the supposed benefit while also NOT causing side-effects that result in more harm than good.

        The reproducibility crisis speaks volumes to this issue…

  2. Thank you for this analysis. I agree completely with your conclusion that it is high time for re-analysis.

    Furthermore, EPA air quality data shows that between 2000 and 2018 that PM2.5 has gone down 39.5% from 13.5 to 8.2 micrograms per cubic meter. I am sure that a longer trend could be developed based on other monitored parameters. I will only believe these health impact claims when someone can show me how the observed health statistics improved commiserate with the observed reductions in ambient levels.

    • Roger ==> One hopes that the vaults of secret science will be forced open and some corrections can be made to public policy.

      • “One hopes that the vaults of secret science will be forced open . . . ”

        President Trump: “Hold my Pepsi!”

    • Bell Study of ozone and short term mortality of 95 US Cities is the classic example of poor statistical work.
      The Bell study is considered the gold standard, yet it is so rife with glaring errors, from lack of control base, biased data collection, several cities with huge leaps in mortality even though the level of ozone is way to small to attach any correlation, increase in ozone having a negative correlation to the predominant factor yet assigned a correlation as if it the cause.

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3546819/

      The particulate matter studies also suffer from the inability to recognize the law of diminishing returns, ie at the air gets incrementally cleaner, the benefits of the cleaner air get incremently bigger – the opposite of the law of diminishing returns

  3. Hits at the core of the climate change issue. Scientists with a political bent (nothing wrong with that yet) publish stuff that gets loudly applauded by activists and circulated in the media but the underlying science is sketchy and the last thing they wanna do is subject the data and analysis to scrutiny. Meanwhile it’s becomes a false 10 alarm fire.

  4. Kip, With respect to the above, I’d be interested in your take on:

    1. Acid Rain
    2. The Ozone Hole
    3. Second-Hand Smoke

    Thanks

    • Steve ==> Each of those topics has its own story. The sketchiest of them is probably “second-hand smoke”. — which I find objectionable but have serious doubts that it represents, for most people under most circumstances, a health hazard.

    • Steve, in regards to acid rain, I was told by a Virginia Tech forestry professor (can’t remember his name) who told me upon questioning the severity of acid rain “If a gallon of water represented all the stresses on our forests, acid rain would constitute about three drops.”

    • Steve, you don’t know me, but I did an analysis of several Second-Hand smoke studies years ago (2012 – 2014, I forget), one of the first that I did. I totally lost respect for these studies. The statistical work was horrible. Included a redefinition of what constitutes statistical significance, among many other problems. The only positive thing I found was that the original data was available.

      Their data, despite their conclusion, showed absolutely no evidence that secondhand smoke constituted a danger. Mind you, I have never smoked, hate second-hand smoke – but science should be above petty data and statistical manipulation.

  5. Kip–

    There was a follow-up to the 6-City Study published a decade later (2006) that finds a somewhat stronger relationship between fine particles and mortality. This study also finds reduced mortality overall because of the strong reductions in fine particle concentrations (as requested above by Roger Caiazza).

    Could you bring your admirable ability to characterize statistical strength of studies to the (apparently) stronger evidence from this followup?

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2662950/

    • Lance ==> Good question. Look at Table 2 in the follow-up study. You find almost exactly the same non-significant results (CIs include no effect value of 1) and the same lack of dose response for pollution levels.

      In the combined results the overall effect is even smaller than in the original at 1.18 (1.04–1.34) — an inconsequential finding.

    • There is a confounding factor in that data. There was sharp decline in cigarette smoking over the same time period

      • Mike ==> One the biggest problems with modern epidemiology of all stripes is the fallacy that all confounding factors can actually be controlled for statistically. This is nearly always FALSE.

  6. Here is what the leader of the 6-City Study had to say: (I haven’t located the original study he refers to):

    In 2009 we examined changes in life expectancy and changes in PM2.5 air pollution in 211 counties in the U.S. between 1980 and 2000. We found that average life expectancy has increased—by roughly 2.7 years—and that declining air pollution was likely responsible for about 0.8 years of that increase. In 2011 the EPA estimated that the control of particulate air pollution saved 160,000 lives in 2010, and that it will save 230,000 lives in 2020.

    https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/six-cities-air-pollution-study-turns-20/

    • Lance ==> The result claimed derives from earlier work which is iffy. It is true that life expectancy has increased. There is no good evidence that declining levels of PM2.5 accounted for any of that.

    • Lance-

      NEVER believe EPA figures for number of lives saved. These numbers are based on the EPA’s linear, no threshold, one exposure, model. This model has been discussed and debunked a number of times here at WUWT. The “lives saved” numbers are simply meaningless.

    • “We found that average life expectancy has increased—by roughly 2.7 years—and that declining air pollution was likely responsible for about 0.8 years of that increase.”

      Orifice derived estimates aren’t worth the paper with which they’re wiped away. That estimate is personal opinion and hubris masquerading as science.

      • …and is EXACTLY why “secret science” needs to be dragged, kicking and screaming notwithstanding, into the light of scrutiny.

    • Lance ==> Here we see the effect of circular science. They use the “effect” (probably non-existent) from the earlier studies to calculate the percentage of increase in life expectancy attributable to reduction of PM2.5.

  7. Does anyone know what became of the Secret Science Reform Act? I don’t see that anything became of it:

    https://www.nas.org/blogs/article/nas_endorses_secret_science_reform_act

    NAS Endorses Secret Science Reform Act

    June 27, 2014

    Is a tax-supported federal regulatory agency – such as the Environmental Protection Agency – subject to public oversight? Is EPA obliged to make public the scientific data on which its regulatory policies are based? For NAS, the answer to both questions is unequivocally affirmative. President Peter Wood recently joined a group of academics and scientists to sign a letter endorsing the Secret Science Reform Act, just approved this week by the House Committee on Space, Science and Technology.

  8. I can understand the need for privacy. However anonymizing data has been standard practice in and out of the medical field for decades (at least).

    • Moreover, if you are going to use data to effect public laws, that expose me to the threat of fines or incarceration, I believe my interest in the source of the data outweighs any desire for anonymity. If you want to remain anonymous, refuse to participate in the study.

      • Patrick ==> The whole “patient-date” thing is a STRAW MAN — there is really no threat as long as the original data is being confined to responsible researchers — for example, not published in the Times.

  9. It is unfortunate that most published research is never reevaluated by follow-on or even a reanalysis using the original research methods. I have seen some criticisms that up to 90 percent of published research is never verified; essentially the findings are taken at “face value”. Publication is not verification of a study’s findings. It simply means that the paper met the minimum qualifications for publication set by the journal. This point if conveniently forgotten by most “press” folks. I have my on opinion why, which is a mostly scientific illiterate press workforce with a strong socialist “big government” philosophical bias.

    • There’s no fame in a paper that says “ We agree with what they found x years ago”
      There’s also a risk in certain areas, like public health, in producing a paper that says “The renowned Professor, who showed y, in the study x years ago, was wrong “

      • Adam ==> In Advocacy-Science it is forbidden to point out the weaknesses of foundational studies — as it destroys the house of cards that are many areas of such science today.

    • Somehow we have confused a single study with science. Peer review is not proof of accuracy, it is only repeated studies that show consistency and coherency using different data sets that validate the science. Unfortunately there are no Nobel prizes and few grants for scientists that repeat research.

  10. As a researcher on indoor air exposure to fine particles, I know that people without an electric grid who use twigs, grass, and dung to cook and heat their homes live on the order of a decade shorter. These people include the wife and the baby on her hip more often than not.

    The anti-CAGW crowd (of whom I am one) are shooting themselves in the foot by trying to downplay the effect of fine particles on health. It is evident in the death certificates of these African and Asian countries.

    A better strategy is to OWN this effect. Use it to make the case for supplying these countries with loans so they can develop a grid. That will save many more lives than the small number that are lost to the addition of heavy industry.

    • What? I do not think I could disagree with you more.
      We want the unvarnished truth, the whole unvarnished truth and nothing but the unvarnished truth.
      Downplaying, upPlaying and strategizing is the other lot, the con-artists

    • In Europe we have just to wait some years to have a look at our statistics in concern of PM 2.5 deaths as here the use wood stoves and pellet heating is pushed by gouvernement because of global warming and CO2 neutrality – not that it’s true, but proclaimed.
      In the meantime there are warning voices, but the promotion doesn’t stop.

      • Krishna I just don’t get the justification of burning wood pellets as being renewable energy. I get that you can grow more trees, but you need so many of them! And just how fast do they grow?

        Of course the whole premise of CAGW is that CO2 emissions are going to destroy the world. When did they work out how to burn wood chips without creating CO2?

        The scientists that came up with that must have hoped that they kept his name a secret, and I’m certain he didn’t run it by other scientists to see if it made sense.

        Maybe the whole secrecy in science thing was more about keeping it under wraps so that scientists aren’t openly associated with an idea in the event that they are wrong. One way to keep your reputation, hide in a secret society.

        • Megs ==> Burning wood (pellets or split logs) is the BC-20th century solution to home heating and cooking. — it was once necessary — now it is certainly NOT a renewable energy solution. Quite right.

    • “A better strategy is to OWN this effect. ”

      I think it would first be OK to confirm the statistics used to ascertain “this effect”. The two examples shown in this post don’t seem to indicate a real strong argument. I would be interested to at least have a very statistically minded person go through other ‘stronger’ examples of the supporting research; assuming they exist. Having said that, the correlation seems plausible and perhaps folks that are more familiar with the entire body of evidence (you?) have good reason. But nothing like this should be considered ‘beyond scrutiny’ of a curious public….and anyone taking that posture just seems to invite the scrutiny all the more.

    • “ A better strategy is to OWN this effect. Use it to make the case for supplying these countries with loans so they can develop a grid. That will save many more lives than the small number that are lost to the addition of heavy industry.”

      I think I should point out that you are not talking about science here, but propaganda to promote something. That it might serve a good end doesn’t change that.

    • Lance ==> There is no doubt whatever that spending many hours a day breathing smoke filled air – either in a hut in Africa or India, or in a modern US home with a faulty chimney or wood stove (think rural Maine) — has negative health consequences.

      The modern error is to think that if that is bad for youa health then it necessarily follows that ANY and ALL exposures, no matter how small, is equally harmful. This concept is simply Not True.

      Your solution is correct — universal access to modern energy sources is a worthwhile goal. It is one of UN SDGs and should be pursued.

        • Roger Caiazza ==> That said — I have lived in wood heated homes for 40 years (whenever I lived ashore and not on a ship/boat). And in my youth, camped in mountains, deserts and on the beaches with campfires.

          Never noticed any adverse effects….

    • I noticed in Kip’s part 1 yesterday commentators linking their rejection of particulate matter’s impact. One set of links can be instructive about the issue(s).

      This was/is because the linked reports were looking at (quote) “acute death” not being attributable to fine particulates (ex: PM2.5). Which is apparently being conceived by many
      to mean there is nothing believable about the
      contemporary science.

      I posted, yet shall repeat for context here, that PM2.5 type of exposure is not a killing actor in the “mortality” sense; it’s not related to “acute” death. It is rather a potential factor in reducing life span; which means time before “mortality” can statistically occur sooner.

      Look at Type 2 diabetes, unsanitary water, & malnutrition (among many circumstances) as being similar in the context of mortality. These, like particulate matter, are statistically associated with impacting “mortality”; yet in most cases not the direct “acute” causes of life span ending.

      • gringojay ==> Yes, many naive detractors of PM2.5 “mortality” fall back on the “show me the bodies” argument — which is not valid..

        However, the science claiming harms for small concentrations of PM2.5 is simply too weak, to inconsistent, to consider as fact.

        • Except that Gina McCarthy testified that there is no “safe dose”, PM2.5 will kill you. So then, show me the bodies !!

    • … people without an electric grid who use twigs, grass, and dung to cook and heat their homes live on the order of a decade shorter.

      The dose makes the poison.

      Extremely high levels of air pollution, think the ki11ing smogs of London in the 1950s are associated with increased mortality.

      Nobody seriously disagrees that high levels of air pollution are harmful.

      Remember that we are discussing an act that tries to make science more transparent. Most reported research findings are false. In some cases, 90% of the reported research findings are false. Studies with small sample sizes and small effects are the most likely to be false. The Six Cities study is dodgy in that regard. Should it really be the basis of federal regulations? That’s actually the question here.

      We have to ask, when are things good enough? When do regulations that try to improve on the already good, become counterproductive?

    • Lance-

      The example you give proves point I made above. Yes, daily exposure to high levels of (probably carcinogenetic) particulates reduces life spans. But the EPA says because that is true, even one exposure to any level of particulate will cause some deaths. A fact, I submit, “that is not in evidence” as the lawyers say.

      Forty years ago a did some studies for EPA on indoor pollutant exposure levels of automotive exhaust. When they explained to me how they were going to use the data in their model, I was appalled. I thought their exposure model was crap then, and I think it crap now.

    • Lance W

      As a researcher in methods of limiting the production of fine particles, I too am aware that people exposed to smoke live shorter lives. The question is why, and how much of that premature death can honestly be attributed to PM2.5 (or any other size – the jury is still out on PM0.02-0.1 microns). At present the WHO in league with Berkeley is trying to give the impression that it is 100% for at least some of the population (through the IHME exercise).

      People who are poor, missing inoculations, eating a poor diet, subject to spousal abuse, deprived of warm clothes, had a malnourished mother during gestation, work hard physically and attain a low level of education also die prematurely, and are far more likely to cook over an open fire. Coincidence?

      The “attribution” to specific contributions to premature death and or death by consequences is notoriously unreliable. Child sacrifice “has been attributed to” calming volcanoes.

      There is a clear causal relationship between “health effects” and IAP noted in the study by the Dutch International Primary Care Respiratory Group (IPCRG) (2019) here:

      https://www.nature.com/articles/s41533-019-0144-8.epdf

      This study has the kind of result that Author above is looking for: very large effect after making only one change in the home, which is the stove that was leaking smoke. The replacements a) don’t make much smoke at all and b) don’t leak anything into the house.

      They write:

      “The daily respiratory symptoms among adults and children decreased; breathlessness among adults and both breathlessness and wheeze among children disappeared. Symptoms during cooking disappeared in almost all cases, both in adults and children. The CCQ and MRC score reduced by 93 and 23% respectively. The number of chest infections decreased considerably for both adults and children. The number of missed days at school decreased by 72%. All changes in Kyrgyzstan between the baseline and second post intervention measurement were statistically significant (p< 0.05)."

      This is a clear cause-and-effect change for a known specific cause and known, documented, quantified effects. The population was rural, live in clean ambient air, and experienced a clear cause/dose change (which was quantified). The question in 2016 was, can something be done about the mitigating the cause that has a detectable effect. I'd say, "Yes".

      The 6 Cities Study was a marriage of vague attribution, low statistical proof, equitoxicity and linear no-limit extrapolation. (The last item means even a tiny exposure of millions "kills someone".)

      A lot of what passes for air pollution studies hinges on the 6 Cities Study. If they release the data, someone will re-analyse it. That could cause apoplexy.

    • Larry – I agree with you that those individuals heating and cooking on wood stoves do have much shorter lives, but arent they breathing particals much larger than 2.5 pm and in much larger quanities.

      the second point is the EPA’s studies seem to promote the concept that as the air gets incrementally cleaner, the benefits get incrementally bigger – ie a repeal of the law of diminishing returns.

      The third point is the errors in the Bell Study and the Ozone and premature mortality study in 95 US studies which has its over abundance of errors, even though the EPA considers the study to be the gold standard. That study blames ozone when there is a much higher statistical correlation with heat.

    • Lance … then you would know that the toxic Tambouti wood is commonly burnt these instances in Africa. Also commonly known to those of us who grew up in Africa not to put Tambouti on the BBQ fire. I’m sure that Asia has its fair share of toxic wood as well.

    • Indoor air is always more polluted, by far, than outdoor air. Concentrating the smoke of wood, brush, and manure burning in a confined space is bound to be a detriment to human health, but comparing the levels of pollutants and their effects as respects indoor air pollution to outdoor air pollution is something of a non-sequitur. And I would imagine that continued exposure to carbon monoxide in confined spaces has more to do with the detriments to health or life expectancy seen as respects indoor air pollution than it does with particulates.

      In short, you can make the case for INDOOR pollution issues without chasing your tail regarding practically useless reductions in OUTDOOR air pollution which don’t have any real benefit, but cost huge sums of money. Such wasted resources could solve REAL problems (maybe get some lead-free water in Detroit’s plumbing system, for example).

      • Lance ==> My quick test and proof for “Indoor” air pollution is to walk down the laundry and household cleaner product isle at the supermarket. I have to avoid that isle altogether — not because of some alleged “allergy” but simply because there are so many volatiles in the air — now that’s air pollution — and we haven;t gotten to cooking, fire retardants on furniture, pet dander, dust, mites, the contents of bathroom cabinets…..

  11. “The study had, in total, 8,111 subjects , all white — in six different cities — roughly 1300 subjects per city.”

    I’m no statistician, but something about this seems wrong. First, only St. Louis and Topeka have a large population. Second, the furthest southern city is in Tennessee. In short, these 6 cities do not appear to be well-chosen. A mix of large and small cities is important, but the selection seems to chosen for a specific outcome and not random. Third, 6 cities to represent the entire country? That seems to be too significantly insignificant, especially since it excludes cities in Florida or Texas. And what about Puerto Rico? This leads to my fourth point, all white subjects. Really? Do none of these cities have a single black, oriental, native American, or Latino resident? If a study that was pro-meat used only white subjects, I promise you that the big government control freaks would zero in on the race issue immediately. And fifth, 8111 subjects for a country whose population has been great than 2 million for a long time. That also seems to be statistically too insignificant.

    I would be inclined to believe the purpose of the study if it included all races, various ages, various factors (smoker, job type, and such), various economic factors, tens of thousands of people, and multiple large and small cities from all over the country. The six cities study just seems to me to that the answer was determined before the study started.

    • Wade ==> The problems with the study are legion — but the biggest problem is that it does not actually, scientifically, find evidence for its conclusions.

      • Kip is correct. The “causes” are attributed, not the result of a coroner’s analysis of people’s bodies. There is as much correlation with income alone, or education alone, or inoculation history alone and so on.

        Consider: a cigarette creates about 45 milligrams of PM2.5. That is 45,000 micrograms. Living in what is these days considered a highly polluted city with an average 300 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic metre in the air all year is the equivalent of smoking 1/6th of a cigarette per day. Yet the media will happily repeat any claim that it is like smoking 2 packs a day.

        I traced the origin of that sort of claim to an American researcher studying some place in China. His calculation was in error by a factor of 250.

        His one erroneous paper is the source of all the claims since that living in Bombay is, for example, like smoking 2 packs a day. His error is repeated because it “gives the right answer” even if the calculation is wrong. Sound familiar?

    • Wade,

      Using only one race makes perfect sense. It rules-out potential of race/ethnicity for the most part.

      Toxicological studies done on animals typically use a single species. You want as much control over a study/experiment as possible.

      • Michael Jankowski ==> But doing so makes the findings impossible to generalize to “all humans”.

  12. Kip: Enjoyed both parts of your post. I did note that the studies discussed deal with “association” which is a weaker finding than “correlation”. Of course most everyone knows that correlation does not determine causation, but correlation is necessarily evident where there is causation. If causation cannot be established with a reasonably robust correlation coefficient (> 0.7 or so) calculation of effects of a change in the independent variable on the dependent variable should not be heavily relied upon.

    Where a finding can only claim association, calculations of cause/effect outcomes such as increased or decreased mortality of X are nonsense.

  13. Can’t wait to see a rigorous re-analysis of the altered temperature records that will play a central role in the decisions to spend $Trillions.

    Why isn’t a valid audit of the temperature modifications being done. Are the “Homogenization Algorithms” secret… and the original data “disappeared” ?

  14. Indoor pollution is multiples higher than outdoor pollution in the US.

    How can the studies control for that variable across 8000+ houses in a dozen different climes?

    • I had that immediate thought too – when they start talking about things like increase in asthma, they need to control for, in particular, the amount of time spent by the subjects of the “studies” INdoors vs. OUTdoors. When I was a kid, we were outside a great deal; today, parents probably need to drag their kids out of the house (i.e., away from their computers, video games, TVs, and so forth).

    • Doc ==> I have answered this point somewhere here today. It is true that breathing smokey indoor air all day long — produced by burning wood, grass, dung, charcoal, etc — is harmful.

      That said, there is no strong evidence that PM2.5 at ambient levels in most localities has ever harmed anyone.

  15. There’s no downside to transparency in science, unless you’re an eco-twit frantic for totalitarian control over everyone’s life.

    • Agreed!

      And there’s tremendous upside – a lot of resources can stop being wasted chasing our tails over things that really don’t matter, and be applied to ACTUAL “problems.”

    • Pat, I have to agree. I would have thought that a broad exposure to peers of an important theory that affects humanity would be beneficial. No matter how respected, intelligent and highly regarded a scientist may be I know just from reading this blog that there’s always some one who sees something that may have been missed.

        • Thanks for the link Kip. I only started to comment on this site around three months ago, I’m not on any other form of social media and hadn’t responded to posts before. I found it whilst researching wind and solar renewables. The frustration of being gagged by MSM media has been relieved somewhat by at least having a voice on this site.

          Although my learning curve reads like Michael Mann’s hockey stick, I won’t be putting forward scientific papers any time soon. I don’t even have the high school math.

          My education here has been more about the common sense, or lack thereof in regards to climate change issues, and to occasionally refute the ignorant comments of the leftists who venture here. I think I have a logical thought process and can grasp concepts, but I have chipped into a scientific discussion inappropriately from time to time, out of my depth really. But sometimes I have things of relevance to say and from personal experience. This site has expanded my research material and many people have been supportive.

          Sorry Kip, I only went into detail to make it clear that I’m not trying to pretend to be something I’m not. I had a quick look at that link, I was amazed at the level of activity and opportunities to put forward scientific ideas. I wonder how many people limit their theories to sites such as that one instead of a proper peer review process.

  16. What I learned today is that all large-scale public policy distortion emanates from Harvard as the the go-to arms length contractor for wink-wink-nod-nod studies to confirm prior policy objectives such as EPA in association with advocates. This process is known as Grubbering of the “stupid” public. That’s how you end up with asthma being the catch all universal PR rebuttal line against policy criticism.

  17. “This Secret Science battle is very important — if the forces of common sense and rigorous science prevail, the world will be better for it. If not, we will be condemned to be ruled by weak correlational research findings that are fueled by the desire to provide support advocacy positions — many of which are not, in the commonly accepted sense, a reflection of the real world.”

    That’s a perfect summation of the situation, Kip. We should NOT be basing policy on junk science, which unfortunately is pervasive today.

  18. The Carl Sagan quotation (via Laplace) comes to mind:
    Carl Sagan — ‘Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.’

    Laplace’s version suggests a more obvious link to transparency and replication, i.e., the scientific method.
    “The weight of evidence for an extraordinary claim must be proportioned to its strangeness.”

  19. Kip, the study’s conclusion states:
    “….contributes to excess mortality in certain U.S. cities.”
    Fair enough. (Despite low significance.)

    You also mention:
    “…researchers who have been advocating that very small amounts of air pollution are dangerous to the health of Americans……”

    I understand this is not the subject of your post, but to me there is a big step between the two quotes that is seldom talked about; specifically an assumption of LNT (linear, no lower threshold) between the studies conclusions and subsequent mortality calculations by “researchers” with an ax to grind (government and NGOs like the Heart and Cancer societies).

    Very few natural processes are linear and we can point to a lot of substances that are harmful in larger doses but benign (or even necessary) in very low amounts.

    Have you had experience or wish to comment on this aspect?

    • George Daddis ==> You bring up one of the great falsehood of modern epidemiological science. It is NOT TRUE, for most things under most circumstances, that if large doses of X are harmful that infinitesimally small does of X are harmful.

      Anyone studying human physiology can point out hundreds of contrary examples — many of them vitamins absolutely necessary for health — which are harmful in large quantities but life saving in the correct, small quantities.

  20. The science Journals Science and Nature have been saying there is a crisis of reproducible with science papers for some time. They on the other hand are defending the write to privacy in the wake of the EPA’s demand for transparency.

    • Mike ==> Yes, you see the disconnect. They are obliged by social pressures to defend certain fields of advocacy-science — while acknowledging the unavoidable fact that much of peer-reviewed science is, in effect, nonsense.

  21. William Briggs wrote a detailed rebuttal of the California study (Jarrett et. al.) and submitted it to the CARB. Their response was that since the same errors were made in all their other studies, they would continue to use it. You can read his summary post here; it contains links to more details. Just one of many defects highlighted was:

    #2 Per-person PM2.5 exposure

    It must be clearly understood that no person’s PM2.5 exposure was ever measured. The statements that PM2.5 was associated with all-cause death is therefore a misnomer.

    Instead of actually measuring PM2.5, the authors created a guess of exposure based on where each person in the database (at one time) lived (see the next section). The assumption is that merely living in an area is an error-free proxy for actual PM2.5 exposure. This, of course, is false.

    And because it is false, it is true that the results from each model are too certain. At the least, the confidence intervals limits are too narrow. Since this is so, and since only one model barely reached classical statistical significance, it is more than likely that actual PM2.5 exposure is not significantly related to all-cause death.

    Now, in creating their guess, the authors could have, but did not, create a per-person estimate of PM2.5 exposure. They instead averaged exposure data across months or event years (“constructing 12-month moving averages from January 1988 to December 2000” p. 41). Why “moving averages”? Why not use just the numbers themselves as estimates of PM2.5 exposure? No convincing justification is given.

    The authors could have, but did not, create simple plots of all-cause death by exposure level, just as a sanity check. It is strange that these are missing given the plethora of other graphics.

  22. 1993-16 years -18 years = people who were born on or before 1959. So all 61 or older.
    The ones that died are dead. The ones that lived are pretty much anonymous nobodies.
    And people think that someone is going to dig through 8000 people and try and discover who these people were/are? This is really a concern?

    • Robert ==> Thanks for your support — and I hope you are smarter and more knowledgeable as a result of putting in the effort to read them.

  23. Kip – These same problems are seen often in studies of cancer outcomes correlated with low-dose or low dose-rate radiation exposures. In fact, the manipulation often goes much further; e.g., by using 90% confidence intervals (instead of 95%), which compresses the interval, and often gets the bottom above zero (they usually use excess relative risk, so the baseline is zero, not one). Frequently, the “spectacular” results are the ones with the least deaths, e.g., in the study at the link below, they report an excess relative risk of 32.55 for testicular cancers per gray, with a 90% confidence interval from 4.48 – 105.7. Surely, that must be a “real” result, right? But, this was based on 48 deaths out of 308,000 workers in the study, and when they perform a second analysis (using a hierarchical Bayesian regression), the ERR drops to 0.85, and the CI is -0.33 – 2.14. Not looking so significant now, is it? That does not stop them from concluding, “The results provide further evidence regarding associations between low-dose radiation exposure and cancer.”

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5875434/pdf/nihms948997.pdf

    • Barbara ==> Thanks for checking in — and yes, a lot of this type of advocacy-science — in which the major conclusion is pre-determined and statistics performed to verify, somehow, any how, that conclusion.

  24. It might be that, apart from sound science, the EPA is setting up to more rigorously regulate based on abatement costs. There is a huge difference between a regulation that costs $25 per (statistical) life saved, and one that costs $500,000,000 per (statistical) life saved. The weepy left has no problem ignoring economic reality and the fact that idea that there are only so many resources available. Look at Bernie’s fanbase.

    There are obviously benefits to whatever is producing particulates; otherwise they wouldn’t be being produced. And based on the statistics in this article, there may be a slight cost. Most of us drive or at least ride in automobiles. There is a statistically significant risk to doing so, yet most of us make the assessment that the benefits of car travel make it worth it.

    When telling other people what to do and what to spend, the lefties just want you to take their word for it that it’s worth it.

  25. Kip
    Things may start changing. Here is a link to a recent large study about the effect of air pollutants in California. They found no effect as given in the Abstract.
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yrtph.2018.05.012
    While the article is pay walled, you can find the following under the provided Highlights:
    “The data set and analysis code is available”

  26. It is amazing to me how our God-given Constitutionally guaranteed rights are so easily ignored and violated when some quack of a “scientist” (or bureaucrat) says they must be “for the greater good”.

    It is one thing to have laws that proscribe direct and obvious pollution by one entity upon another. It is entirely different when all of society must suffer penalties for amorous “associations” or “correlations” of speculative and indeterminate causes.

    Our rights should not be so casually discarded. When environmentalism becomes authoritarianism formerly free people become slaves.

  27. With 6 cities, and stats broken down for men and women, that’s 12 data points, The probability that at least one of them will hit the 5% significance limit by chance alone is 1- (0,95)^12 =46% , underwhelming,

    • Alan ==> Whenever overall data is broken down into smaller and smaller bits to compare with one another or the null, it increases one’s chance of “finding” a “significant” result.

      Significant doesn’t mean real or important.

  28. Another issue not mentioned is the loss to follow-up rates. Does the paper have those? In many studies this is not given, or it is not stated that the analysis was on an ‘intent to treat’ basis. This is imporant.

  29. ALL research, other than classified, funded by public money should be required to publish all data, methodologies, and associated code.

    In addition, any data being used to inform public policy, regardless of original funding, should be subject to the same standards. Any arguments to the contrary are just CYA.

    I believe the driver here is the need to have a positive results in any funded research. No government agency, be it public health or climate policy, wants a research project to come back with “no problems”. The same bias flows down to the researchers as well. Knowing taht if they produce NULL results, that will be the end of funding.

    • CBS JR ==> I posit that the driver is the desire to support certain advocacy positions — for fame or funding.

    • in the context of the sentence either works. You are once again being unnecessarily nitpicky. Nobody like grammar nazi’s

      • John ==> I don’t mind — people have differing opinions on that topic — and definitions have changed and are changing.

      • It’s about using the proper words. Sex is biology. Gender is behavior, regardless of how the “woke” people want you to believe that they are the same thing. How is that being nitpicky?

        • It’s being nitpicky because in the real world use of language either word can be and are used in the situation under question. sorry that’s too hard of a concept for you to grasp, Words aren’t as restrictive as you want them to be. Stick to dead languages is you want unchanging word usage.

    • Biology and attributes, respectively. Unfortunately, there are diverse sociopolitical motives to conflate characterizations.

    • Male and female, certainly. Although, there may be a correlation with masculine and feminine physical and mental attributes, too.

    • There could also be a sociobiological orientation a la “women and children, first”. We live in interesting times.

  30. Kip
    Thanks for the excellent article.
    I am currently reading Robert Sapolsky’s Behave.
    He is continually describing all the seminal behavioral studies that decades later were shown to be wanting.
    He also puts caveats on just about every study.
    So my interest was sparked by this study. It seems a parallel to many of Roberts examples

  31. Nikhil Desai says it all in one short sentence:

    “Disease incidence in specific cohorts and burden of disease among the premature dead are entirely unrelated.”

  32. Kip

    Is electrosmog harming our heath ???
    The evidence showing harm is overwhelming
    In 2007, the Bioinitiative Working Group, an international collaboration of prestigious scientists and public health policy experts from the United States, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, and China, released a 650-page report citing more than 2,000 studies (many very recent) that detail the toxic effects of EMFs from all sources. Chronic exposure to even low-level radiation (like that from cell phones), the scientists concluded, can cause a variety of cancers, impair immunity, and contribute to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, heart disease, and many other ailments. “We now have a critical mass of evidence, and it gets stronger every day,” says David Carpenter, MD, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany and coauthor of the public-health chapters of the Bioinitiative report.

    Wi-Fi is an important threat to human health
    “Repeated Wi-Fi studies show that Wi-Fi causes oxidative stress, sperm/testicular damage, neuropsychiatric effects including EEG changes, apoptosis, cellular DNA damage, endocrine changes, and calcium overload. Each of these effects are also caused by exposures to other microwave frequency EMFs,”
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013935118300355

  33. Ah, statistics.
    Problems abound in collecting statistics concerning human health.
    So few really understand what errors can take place in statistical studies.
    First is selection error: to be representative, a sample must be random. Herein is the problem with polling. How does one account for the non-respondent? If a sample is random, the individual has no choice about being included. If the person has a choice, the sample is no longer random, since the non-participants are not represented.
    Second is false precision: all measurement has margins of error, no matter what is being measured. If these margins of error are neglected, then a false narrative is produced. Herein is the problem with like/don’t like polls. If individuals have different standards for liking or not liking, then the result will be skewed.
    Third is the tendency of samplers to change the rules during the collection of data. If a rigorous scheme is not set up at the outset and followed through to the end, errors of bias of one form or another must creep in to the data.
    So what does it mean to be statistically significant? Must we follow Pierson, who chose the 95% standard over a hundred years ago? Or are there other choices for significance?

  34. Kip: thanks for these articles. This is important. All this crap about PM2.5 is a masquerade for banning diesel motors and then all ICE vehicles, ie the crusade against fossil fuels.

    • Yep! Funny that EPA experiments pumping pure diesel fumes straight into human subjects didn’t kill any of them. The old lady with the dicky heart had a scare but that was it.

  35. why do my comments go to moderation all of the time ! :-((

    This has been going on for quite sometime.

    • Streetcred ==> They may not be going to moderation….there is a lot of technical stuff going on behind the scenes — caching, auto-moderation, hand moderation — sometime my comments are delayed and I am the AUTHOR!

      The comment section is not a live chat function…..

        • “except that they appear for me with a note that they’re in moderation”

          I get that sometimes. It usually happens when a flagged word is included in the post.

          Most other times when I post, the post will disappear for a period of time with no notification provided, and will appear later(within about an hour). I’ve only had one post disappear completely and never come back. And then very rarely one of my posts will appear as soon as I post it. Maybe one out of 100.

          The comment software is going to be updated in the near future, so maybe things will get better. The last time it was updated, some glitch occurred, and screwed everything up to the point that Anthony was having a hard time even getting logged on to his own website! Let’s hope that doesn’t happen again. You never know what’s going to happen with new software sometimes.

          • On “In Moderation” ==> The whole subject of moderation is tricky and controversial. The point of moderation is to keep abject trolls who are disruptive and offensive intentionally — not as part of what we hope to see which is constructive conversation — which can and should include disagreement,
            even strong disagreement.

            It would be nice to have paid professional moderators sitting by every minute of the day to do this important work — but the fact is that everyone here is a volunteer — some putting in more time than others — and that’s not possible.

            So the system has some built in automaticity — checking for certain words and phrases like death threats, foul language, too many links, etc etc — I’m not sure what all the programmatic rules are.

            What readers seem to want is a Live Chat-like system — but that just can’t be — it would be overwhelmed by trolls in seconds.

            There are plans a foot to improve the commenting system, including mandatory registration — which will smooth things out.

            So, in word, PATIENCE PLEASE. (well, two words.)

  36. Hi Kip, love your work.
    On a similar note I have an interesting personal story. My mother was a serious chain-smoker when I was a child (early 60’s). I joined the Navy at 15 and my experiences included exposure to asbestos, beryllium, cadmium, PCB, RF radiation and as an aside a war zone. Very recently diagnosed with lesions in two arteries in my heart and a radical prostatectomy thrown in. Interestingly the Veterans Affairs department has a ‘Non-liability Health Care’ clause that provides free health care for ANY cancer. I imagine that this resolves either party from proving (or not) cause. My point for this note is that the science behind the recent glyphosate BS is even thinner than the ‘6 Cities’ study. How is it that courts can decide on the validity of a scientific study?
    Have a great day.
    Oh, P.S. I have never attempted any claim I have put my circumstances down to ‘life’.
    Andy

    • Andy ==> Thanks for sharing your personal story. Liability is a tricky issue — and best left to obvious cases of intentional neglect leading to harm (or something like that).

    • 7th amendment to the US constitution guarantees trial by jury in matters of $20 or more. The typical american on a jury has no scientific background. If its the big bad corporation vs the little guy you know who is going to win. I remember the comments by the jury foreman in the first VIOXX trial of years ago. A reporter asked what he thought of all that science. The foreman answered oh we didn’t understand any of that science…

  37. Kip: In one sense, I’m already ahead of you!

    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2017/08/11/the-social-costs-of-air-pollution-from-cars-in-the-uk/

    (It’s a long article – and huge thanks to Charles for accepting it while Anthony was indisposed).

    I didn’t mention the Six Cities study in that article, but the American Cancer Society study from two years later came out with similar results. And if those results turn out to have been wrong, that will take away most, if not all, objective “rationale” for controlling people’s lives for reasons of air pollution. I leave it to the readership here to assess the magnitude of the social and political consequences, if that proves to be the case.

    Oh, and in 2000 the “Health Effects Institute” was allowed access to the Six Cities data to validate it; and gave it a (no pun intended) clean bill of health. Might there be a “Climategate” in this area, too? I’ve lost the link to the one page summary, but here’s the full report:

    healtheffects.org/system/files/HEI-Reanalysis-2000.pdf

    • Neil ==> Thanks for the link to the HEI reanalysis. “HEI is a nonprofit corporation chartered in 1980 as an independent research organization to provide high-quality, impartial, and relevant science on the health effects of air pollution.”

      They are primarily funded by EPA — their goal to to assert harms from air pollution.

  38. If we based policy on the raw data in the California study, one could reasonably conclude that high ozone levels are helpful in preventing lung cancer, since the mortality ratio (confidence interval 0.719 to 0.964, median = 0.832) is less than 1 outside the 95% confidence interval.

    Of course, no one would reasonably say that industries should emit more ozone, because low-altitude ozone forms from reactions between nitrous oxides and volatile organic compounds in the presence of sunlight (and oxygen normally present in the atmosphere), and those other pollutants do have deleterious effects.

    But this example does demonstrate the absurd policy that could result when cherry-picked results from relatively inconclusive studies are used to justify environmental rules.

    Any reasonable study that would be used to check the health effects of air pollution should exclude all smokers (since smokers voluntarily poison themselves with high doses of pollutants regardless of the surrounding air), have all subjects grouped by age and sex for comparison between those exposed to more or less pollution, and have measures of susceptibility to disease plotted against a dose of pollutant in units of (mass/volume * time), such as ppm-years or ug/m3-years.

    EPA should provide scientific transparency by forcing those who perform these studies to publish their raw data (not only the conclusions), so that other scientists can check whether the conclusions are valid.

    Since this website is devoted mostly to global warming by CO2, the requirement to actually check raw data is even more important when dealing with supposed catastrophes which would result from extra CO2 in the air. Computer models have notoriously over-predicted the temperature rise and sea-level rise due to increasing CO2 in the past 40 years. The re-analysis of Michael Mann’s raw data has debunked his hockey-stick graph.

    How do we know how much temperatures will rise in the future if CO2 emissions continue to rise, since the models have been wrong in the past? If temperatures warm by more than 1.5 C in 100 or 200 years, how can we quantify how many people would suffer, relative to how many people would benefit from warmer temperatures? The only way to estimate this would be to study life expectancies or death rates during exceptionally cold or hot years in the past. We would need to study how the frequency of violent storms, floods, and droughts vary with temperature in various areas of the world over a long period of time. Due to the variability of weather not only with CO2 concentration but by location and season, it is likely that such studies would be rather inconclusive, and not necessarily predict a catastrophe if the global average temperature rose by 1.5 to 2.0 C.

    Such results would not help the scaremongers’ cause of trying to force people to spend trillions of dollars and endure much discomfort for a fossil-fuel-free future to prevent a non-event, but that would be true science, and would show that scientific expertise is better used trying to improve the living conditions of everyone in the world, whatever weather nature has in store for us.

  39. Hi Kip,

    Here is another typo for those of us who are obsessive-compulsive proofreaders.
    Effect rations–>effect ratios
    “Strength of the association — The Six Cities effect findings are very small — effect rations are not 4 times, 10 times, 40 times . ..”

    Nice paper, as usual

    • Robert ==> I caught one of those auto-spell correction errors with the same word — ratios — somewhere else.

      Thanks for your good eye!

  40. Hi Kip,
    Here is another typo from a obsessive-compulsive proofreader
    effect rations –> effect ratios
    “Strength of the association — The Six Cities effect findings are very small — effect rations are not 4 times, 10 times, 40 times . . .”

    Another nice paper–as usual– from your consistent and impressively productive output

    PS. Sorry if this is a repost. I’m using an unfamiliar iPad and was not sure I filled out the required field

    • Robert ==> Thanks — I do appreciate these corrections — even if duplicated. Proofreading is VERY difficult for authors who tend to see on the page what they intended to write.

      My wife, however, was, in her earlier years, a professional proofreader for magazines — and is terrific — but I seldom ask her to do technical articles.

  41. Wow, thanks — you have courage, Kip. Criticizing the six-city-study is criticizing their Bible — blasphemy! This is their whole justification for trying to control every dust-mote created by any human activity.

    • beng135 ==> I looked into the Six Cities study because all the the EPA Secret Science rule detractors mentioned it as their primary concern. I was shocked at how weak and inconsistent its findings are.

  42. Epilogue:

    Thank you to all the readers here for there terrific response and intersting discussion of the issues involved in the EPA Secret Science rule battle.

    As a final note here in the questions raised in my criticism of the Six Cities study, readers should understand that I have not said, nor am I saying, that severe air pollution, indoors or outdoors — either from combustion sources like factories and internal combustion engines or from smokey heating and cooking fires in the homes and huts of the poor in the Third World — is not harmful. I have visited and shared meals with families living in such conditions, and I am fully aware of the harms that can come from breathing heavily polluted (smokey) air hours on end every day. I grew up on Los Angeles, California, in the 1950s — when smog made the air acrid and stung one’s eyes — where nearly every individual household still burnt their trash in backyard incinerators just like my family did — where recess in schools was cancelled on the wqorst days and kids kept indoors to protect them. Such conditions have been corrected through strong efforts to reduce air pollution.

    But the Six Cities study simply does not present evidence of harm caused by very small quantities of PM2.5 — not by any standard required of strict scientific investigation — nor does the HEI re-analysis or any of the subsequent follow-up studies.

    With the E.P.A.’s “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science” there is hope that some of this science can be reviewed in a new light by professionals not involved in the original research and without vested interests in the outcome.

    Above all,
    Thanks for Reading!

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