The Big Ban on Bituminous Coal Sales Revisited: Serious Epidemics and Pronounced Trends Feign Excess Mortality Previously Attributed to Heavy Black-Smoke Exposure
Author: Wittmaack, Klaus
Source: Inhalation Toxicology, Volume 19, Number 4, January 2007 , pp. 343-350(8)
Publisher: Informa Healthcare
Abstract:The effect of banning bituminous coal sales on the black-smoke concentration and the mortality rates in Dublin, Ireland, has been analyzed recently. Based on the application of standard epidemiological procedures, the authors concluded that, as a result of the ban, the total nontrauma death rate was reduced strongly (-8.0% unadjusted, -5.7% adjusted). The purpose of this study was to reanalyze the original data with the aim of clarifying the three most important aspects of the study, (a) the effect of epidemics, (b) the trends in mortality rates due to advances in public health care, and (c) the correlation between mortality rates and black-smoke concentrations. Particular attention has been devoted to a detailed evaluation of the time dependence of mortality rates, stratified by season. Death rates were found to be strongly enhanced during three severe pre-ban winter-spring epidemics. The cardiovascular mortality rates exhibited a continuous decrease over the whole study period, in general accordance with trends in the rest of Ireland. These two effects can fully account for the previously identified apparent correlation between reduced mortality and the very pronounced ban-related lowering of the black-smoke concentration. The third important finding was that in nonepidemic pre-ban seasons even large changes in the concentration of black smoke had no detectable effect on mortality rates. The reanalysis suggests that epidemiological studies exploring the effect of ambient particulate matter on mortality require improved tools allowing proper adjustment for epidemics and trends. Aspects of harvesting and more recent results derived from a distributed lag model covering the effects of black smoke and temperature are also discussed.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: GSF-National Research Centre for Environment and Health, Institute of Radiation Protection, Neuherberg, Germany
Publication date: 2007-01-01