News: CJ Exclusives

Study Finds No Ozone-Asthma Link

Scholar: Activists, journalists should “check the facts” on air quality

There is no foundation for a widely suggested link between ground-level ozone, or “smog,” and asthma among children, according to a new study by the John Locke Foundation that cautions policymakers and the news media to “check the facts” before coming to conclusions about scientific issues.

In the study, Dr. Roy Cordato, vice president for research and resident scholar at the Raleigh-based think tank, examined ozone and childhood-asthma data from North Carolina counties. One of his conclusions was that increasing rates of childhood hospitalizations for asthma were hard to connect to levels of ozone pollution, since there was no evidence that the latter — measured in terms of ozone-alert days per monitor — had been increasing at all.

More importantly, Dr. Cordato wrote in a new Spotlight briefing paper, a careful look at the county-by-county statistics found no basis at all for the alleged asthma-ozone link. In fact, he said, for all four years studied the only detectable correlation was negative — “the greater the number of ozone exceedences, the lower the rate of asthma hospital admissions.” Previous reports that suggested a link between smog and asthma in North Carolina, Dr. Cordato continued, had apparently made no effort to examine the available data.

“The idea that high asthma rates among children in North Carolina have been the result of ozone pollution has been a consistent and unquestioned given in debates surrounding air quality regulations, such as the recently enacted Clean Smokestacks Bill,” he said. “Next time, lawmakers and the media should check the facts before repeating unfounded and politically motivated allegations.”

Dr. Cordato, an economist, is the author of numerous studies on North Carolina air quality, environmental regulation, and related issues for the Locke Foundation and for national research institutes. He argued in the new report that the attempt — by groups such as the American Lung Association, the Public Interest Research Group, and the “Energy Working Group” at Appalachian State University — to sell new regulations as having a potentially beneficial affect on children could prove counterproductive.

“Unfortunately, such phanton-chasing in the media and elsewhere does a great disservice to those who are suffering from asthma-related problems, as it distracts out attention and our resources from more likely causes,” Dr. Cordato wrote.

For more information about the report, called Dr. Roy Cordato at 919-828-3876 or read it online at: http://www.johnlocke.org/issues/Spotlights/226_ozone_asthma.pdf.