RALEIGH — The latest air quality rankings from the American Lung Association continue to exaggerate the harmful effects of air pollution. That’s the finding from an expert whose study of the health impacts of air pollution has been released the John Locke Foundation.
“Activist groups like the American Lung Association don’t stay in business by telling people that everything is okay or that things are getting better,” said Joel Schwartz, visiting fellow with the American Enterprise Institute and JLF adjunct scholar. “They stay in business by keeping people scared and keeping them thinking that air pollution is a serious and urgent problem that’s a tremendous threat to their health.
“Those things are just not true,” Schwartz added. “The Lung Association has a history of exaggerating air pollution levels, obscuring positive trends, and exaggerating health risks. That’s one of the reasons why most people think air pollution has been getting worse, and that it’s still a serious threat to their health, when just the opposite is the case.”
The John Locke Foundation will soon release Schwartz’s policy report, “The Health Effects of Air Pollution: Separating Science from Propaganda.” It challenges conventional wisdom about the harmful health effects of air pollution.
Among the key findings: air pollution does not contribute to an increase in asthma. Schwartz found that asthma rates grew substantially from 1980 to 1996, even while air pollution levels declined.
“No matter where you look, whether in North Carolina or anywhere else in the United States, we’ve had declining air pollution and rising asthma,” Schwartz said. “So unless lower air pollution is the cause of more asthma, air pollution certainly can’t be involved.
“If you look at data on asthma hospitalizations in North Carolina, it shows the counties that have the highest ozone levels actually have the lowest asthma hospitalization rates,” he added. “Ozone simply doesn’t have much of an effect on asthma, and we shouldn’t really expect to see much improvement in asthma from ozone reductions.”
JLF analysts also raise questions about the data the American Lung Association uses to prepare its report. “This information is out-of-date,” said Roy Cordato, JLF vice president for research and resident scholar. “Every year, the Lung Association ignores the most recent year of data. 2005 was one of North Carolina’s best years for ozone pollution.
“Instead of including that readily available data, the association looked back to 2002 to use one of the worst ozone years on record,” Cordato added. “There’s no reason for this report to consistently ignore the most up-to-date record of North Carolina’s improving air quality.”
People should be wary of the American Lung Association’s scare tactics, Schwartz said.
“Air quality is good in North Carolina, and it’s going to be getting better,” he said. “We’ve just come off the three lowest ozone years in the history of ozone monitoring. And yet that’s something you don’t see reported in the press, at least it’s something the environmentalists don’t talk about. And yet we’ve had tremendous success in reducing air pollution of all kinds, and air pollution continues to drop.”
Joel Schwartz’s Policy report, “The Health Effects of Air Pollution: Separating Science and Propaganda,” is available at the Locke Foundation’s web site. For more information, please contact Roy Cordato at (919) 828-3876 or [email protected]. To arrange an interview, contact JLF communications director Mitch Kokai at (919) 306-8736 or [email protected].