How Stupid Is Air Pollution ‘Science’?

tobacco packaging
AP Photo/Dave Martin

A friend of mine just e-mailed me a November 2015 report from the European Environment Agency claiming that the air pollutant called PM2.5 causes 432,000 deaths in Europe every year. Is this plausible?

PM2.5 is very fine soot about 1/20 the width of a human hair. It comes from smokestacks, tailpipes, fireplaces, smoking — anything involving burning.

Typical outdoor ambient levels of PM2.5 are on the order of 10 micrograms (millionths of a gram) per cubic meter of air. For ease of calculation, a typical adult inhales about a cubic meter of air each hour, meaning that a typical adult inhales about 240 micrograms of PM2.5 over the course of a day. The EEA report claims that this level of PM2.5 kills 432,000 nonsmokers per year. These deaths are supposedly caused by heart or lung ailments —  not cancer.

Now consider that in Europe, it has been estimated that smoking kills 695,000 per year. Based on the American experience, about 62 percent of these deaths (i.e., about 434,000) can be assumed to be heart-lung related.

So smoking kills 434,000 per year while plain, ordinary, outdoor air-breathing kills 432,000 non-smokers per year. Hmmm….

But the juxtaposition is more astounding when you consider the reality of smoking compared to breathing.

In breathing fresh air, the typical adult inhales about 1 microgram of PM2.5 every 6 minutes.

But a smoker will inhale somewhere between 10,000 to 40,000 micrograms of PM2.5 from one cigarette… that is, in that same 6-minute period. So in the same brief time period, a smoker will inhale 10,000 to 40,000 times more PM2.5.

Somehow though, despite the much greater inhalation of the supposedly deadly PM2.5, only 2,000 more smokers die annually from PM2.5-related heart-lung causes that non-smokers — according to air pollution “science” anyway.

Steve Milloy publishes (@JunkScience).


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