SEA The forest fires and haze disaster in Southeast Asia last year may have led to the deaths of more than 100,000 people according to a study by researchers from two United States universities. A vast majority of the cases were in Indonesia, where fires were deliberately set to clear land for agriculture. (1)
In response, Indonesian, Malaysian and Singaporean authorities have dismissed this research that smoky haze from catastrophic forest fires caused multiple deaths. Some even contend the haze caused no health problems. (2)
Singapores Ministry of Health said short-term exposure to haze will generally not cause serious health problems. They claim the study was not reflective of the actual situation, and the overall death rate hadnt changed last year. Folks are still studying the research which was computer generated and not based on hard data. People have died but to what extent the haze contributed to it, its hard to say. If an 80 year old fellow with high blood pressure, diabetes, heart problems and exposure to haze died, what did he die of? This is a difficult question to answer. (2)
The research is obviously based on the EPA claim that particulate matter kills. (3) The particles, known as PM2.5 because they are 2.5 micrometers in diameter or smaller, are also typical in diesel emissions, among other things.
Despite the Indonesia forest fires, the ambient PM levels are very low. In contrast, ambient PM levels in Beijing have hit levels 40+ times greater, or more, but with no deaths attributable to PM particles. (3)
Chinese cities have some of the worst air pollution in the world. Two are Xian and Shanghai, yet reports claim life expectancy in both cities is higher than in the US.
According to a 2012 report, even though air in Xian is, on average, 9-10 times more polluted in terms of PM2.5 particles than the median PM2.5 levels of the two most polluted cities in a 112 US city study (Rubidoux, CA and Los Angeles, CA), it is safer than US air by a factor of five. (4)
Then theres Shanghai. On Decemberr 6, 2013, Shanghais PM2.5 level exceeded 600 micrograms per cubic meterabout 60 times the average level of PM2.5 in US air. (5) So Shanghais death rate should be quite high, e.g., 60 times higher. But no such deaths rate were reported. In fact, no increase in deaths at all was reported. And, like with Xian its worth noting that the life expectancy in shaghai (82.47 years) is higher than that in the US. (6)
Yet, EPA claims that natural and man-made PM2.5 causes as many as 500,000 deaths annually. (7) Think about this statistic for a moment. In the US this figure would represent 25% of all US annual deaths. How many people do you know who died from air pollution?
And its not just the EPA making these claims. The World Health Organization recently claimed that poor air quality killed 6.5 million in 2012. (8) There were about 50 million deaths worldwide in 2012 so this means that about 1 of every 7.5 deaths was due to air pollution. Another statistic that challenges the imagination!
A study by UCLAs Dr. James Enstron of the long-term relationship between PM2.5 air pollution followed nearly 50,000 elderly Californians over a 30-year period from 1973 through 2002. It concluded that there was no death effect from current atmospheric levels of PM2.5 in California. (9)
Scientific reality: PM2.5 does not kill anyone. The EPAs claims of PM2.5 lethality rank among the most nonsensical, fraudulent and readily disprovable scientific claims ever.
As one pundit has noted,If smoke from fires was lethal, there would be no humans alive.
Joe Cochrane, Blazes in Southeast Asia may have led to deaths of over 100,000, study says, The New York Times, September 19, 2016 Stephen Wright, Nothing to see here: Southeast Asia flummoxed by haze study, bigstory.ap.org., September 21, 2016 No .Indonesias 2015 forest fires did not kill 100,000 or even one, junkscience.com, September 21, 2016 Junji Cao et al., Fine particulate matter constituents and cardiopulmonary mortality in a heavily polluted Chinese city, Environmental Health Perspectives, January 3, 2012 Hu Min, Shanghai pollution figures hit record highs, shanghaidaily.com, December 7, 2013 Viola Ke, Life expectancy figure continues to rise in city, shanghaidaily.com, January 27, 2014 Steve Milloy, If air pollution kills, why doesnt it kill the Chinese?, junkscience.com, May 21, 2015 Claim: dirty air killed 6.5 million in 2012, junkscience.com, September 2016 James. E. Enstron, Fine particulate air pollution and coarse particulate air pollution on mortality: a national analysis, Environmental Health Perspectives, 117(6), 898, 2009
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Jack Dini is author of Challenging Environmental Mythology. He has also written for American Council on Science and Health, Environment & Climate News, and Hawaii Reporter.