Azara Blog: A link between pollution and pneumonia is allegedly found

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Date published: 2008/04/15

The BBC says:

High levels of pollution may have contributed to the deaths of thousands of people in England from pneumonia in recent years, a study suggests.

A team at the University of Birmingham examined death rates from the disease and pollution levels in 352 local authorities between 1996 and 2004.

Writing in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, they reported a "strong correlation" between the two.

But the researchers conceded that social factors may also be at play.
But lung specialists said more detailed research was needed before a clear link between pneumonia and exhaust fumes was declared.

"What this paper does show, however, is that there is clear geographical variation in deaths from pneumonia, lung cancer and COPD," said Richard Hubbard of the British Lung Foundation.

"This would suggest that social factors such as deprivation and smoking, and possibly pollution, are important and that there is great potential to prevent deaths from lung disease."

A typical health study. It is easy to find correlations but they prove nothing. It is hard to prove causations so researchers rarely do. Thus the game is to find a correlation and then with a magic "wink, wink, nudge, nudge", imply that in fact the correlation implies a causation. (Hey, we all know that exhaust fumes are bad, so they must be the cause of everything in life that is bad.) Unbelievably, for once the BBC actually points out that the researchers have proven nothing. Usually the BBC just lets the sloppy argument go by without comment.

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