Does air pollution cause cardio-respiratory problems in infants?

Here’s another egregious missed reference-check by a major “science” journal.

A study in Environmental Health Perspectives (Peel et al.) claims to correlate ambient air pollution concentrations with the occurrence of apnea and cardiac arrhythmia in infants.

Given the unlikelihood that actual infant exposure was monitored and that infants typically spend 90% of their time indoors, I immediately wondered how the exposure issue was handled by the researchers. That is, how do Peel et al. know that outdoor air measurements are reliable proxies for indoor air quality and exposure?

Reading through Peel et al., I found the following key passage:

Little is known about the activity patterns and air pollution exposure specifically in infants, but infants likely spend less time outdoors than children or even adults (Jones et al. 2007). Although personal monitoring of air pollution in infants is difficult, Jones et al. (2007) reported that a single ambient monitor provided a reasonable estimate of PM concentrations in infants’ bedrooms.

So I went to Jones et al. and found that it was entirely misrepresented by Peel et al.

Cutting to the chase, Jones et al. only examined the variability of pollutant concentrations inside homes. That is, Jones et al. concluded that:

… although large variations in PM concentrations between rooms within homes can occur, a single monitoring station [inside the home] can provide a reasonable estimate of indoor concentrations.

So Jones et al. in no way helps Peel et al. in their assumption that outdoor air pollutant measurements are reasonable proxies for indoor air quality and infant exposure.

As we recently posed the question to the editors of The Lancet:

Is it too much to ask of journal editors to verify references for key claims?

6 thoughts on “Does air pollution cause cardio-respiratory problems in infants?”

  1. Another totalitarian who must have cut his science classes speaks. Validation of the wisdom of permitting my subscription to lapse 30 years ago.

  2. EHP is not a scientific journal; most of its data are gleaned from the “word on the street” and from analyses of what the nannies would like to find to be true.

  3. Is it too much to ask that they have a result that is outside the bounds of standard deviation before declaring their results?

    Results are listed in the table on Page 4 (1324 of the journal). Only 2 out of 24 regressions had errors that didn’t go below 1, and one ends on 1.00. 9 (37%) were even negative. Their BEST association is a 1.049 incident rate. That’s less than a 5% increase for 25 ppb ozone.

    This is a perfect example of a null study. However, they fail to see that.

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