RALEIGH — As the American Lung Association prepares to release its annual State of the Air report, including county rankings that often receive significant media attention, a new study from the Raleigh-based John Locke Foundation calls into question the usefulness of the ALA ranking system, particularly when applied to North Carolina communities.
“The annual American Lung Association is methodologically flawed,” the Locke Foundation study concludes. “Its reporting of data and detrimental health effects is misleading, and its grading system and rankings are meaningless.”
The new study is titled Ground-Level Ozone: Myth Facts and Reality, and examines all facets of the ground-level ozone issue, from its causes, to its effects on human health, to manipulation of the science by environmental pressure groups. The study was authored by Dr. Roy Cordato, the Foundation’s resident scholar and vice president for research.
Cordato argues that in recent years “high profile studies published by the ALA and other environmental pressure groups, have served to scare the public while doing little to advance scientific understanding.” He charges that “the primary goal of the [ALA] study is to push a political agenda at both the federal and state level, not to advance sound science or enlighten the public.”
The Locke Foundation study notes that the health effects of ground-level ozone are not as clear as the ALA study suggests. For example as part of his research Cordato examines the relationship between high ozone days in North Carolina and childhood hospital admissions. He concludes that “counties with the fewest high ozone days often have the highest hospitalization rates. These results are exactly opposite of those suggested in the Lung Association report.” North Carolina’s Swain County, for example, receives an A in the 2003 report for its low ozone-exposure and yet has one of the highest rates of hospitalizations for childhood asthma in the state. Cordato notes that “the ALA ignores all actual data relating ground-level ozone and asthma in favor of statistical projections and abstractions, which are easily manipulated.”
Cordato goes on to point out that the ALA report makes inter-county comparisons of ozone-exposure data without adjusting for the number of monitors in each county. “This method of reporting ozone is biased against counties with more monitors and renders all inter-county comparisons and rankings made by the ALA completely meaningless,” he said.
In addition, he argues that the ALA exaggerates the size of the population exposed to high ozone in each county by ignoring the actual location of the monitors. For example in previous State of the Air reports the ALA has included the entire population of Wake County as being exposed to high levels of ozone when only one monitor in rural Fuquay-Varina had registered poor air quality.
Cordato’ entire report on ozone and the American Lung Association’s State of the Air can be read online at https://www.johnlocke.org/policy_reports/2003033135.html. For more information on air quality issues in North Carolina, call 919-828-3876.