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June 23, 1993

'Best Data Yet' Say Air Pollution Kills Below Levels Currently Considered Safe

JAMA. 1993;269(24):3087-3088. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03500240025005

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RESEARCHERS are reporting "robust" associations between premature mortality and air pollution levels that the US government currently deems safe in what appears to be the best study of its kind to date.

The Harvard Six Cities Study found a 26% higher rate of premature death in the most vs the least polluted cities in which it tracked 8111 people for 14 to 16 years.

"People who live in highly polluted cities die earlier. It's just that simple," says C. Arden Pope, PhD.

What's more, the risk may be highest not from commonly known pollutants like ozone but from respirable particles with a diameter of 2.5 μm or less, small enough to penetrate deep into the lungs, says Pope. He is a visiting scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Mass, and associate professor at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

Particulate matter can include such things as carbon, hydrocarbon,