Air Pollution Effects Measured by PM2.5 Not Consistent Across United States

S. Stanley Young, Assistant Director of Bioinformatics for the National Institute of Statistical Sciences (NISS), and Jessie Q. Xia, former NISS postdoctoral fellow, report on the re-analysis of a data set used in a 2009 New England Journal of Medicine paper by C. Arden Pope, III, and co-authors. Young and Xia's article, "Assessing geographic heterogeneity and variable importance in an air pollution data set," will be published in the August 2013 issue of Statistical Analysis and Data Mining.


Young and  Xia's analysis demonstrates that, as many researchers are already aware, observational studies are complex and open to multiple, and sometimes contradictory, interpretations. Young and Xia conclude from their analyses that effects of air pollution as measured by PM2.5 (“fine particulates”) are not homogeneous across the United States. In their model, the relative importance of air pollution on mortality is less than that of income and smoking. These results suggest that rules for controlling air pollution in the U.S. should be region-specific, as well as underscore the delicacy of associated policy-making, which must carefully balance economic and air pollution effects.


Drs. Young and Xia plan to make the data set used in this publication public.


About NISS

The National Institute of Statistical Sciences was established in 1990 by the national statistics societies and the Research Triangle universities and organizations, with the mission to identify, catalyze and foster high-impact, cross-disciplinary and cross-sector research involving the statistical sciences. NISS is dedicated to strengthening and serving the national statistics community, most notably by catalyzing community members’ participation in applied research driven by challenges facing government and industry. NISS also provides career development opportunities for statisticians and scientists, especially those in the formative stages of their careers. In particular, NISS has appointed more that 70 postdoctoral fellows with graduate training in statistics, computer science, mathematics, environmental sciences, psychometrics and transportation. NISS is located in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.


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Thursday, August 1, 2013 by Jamie Nunnelly