Air quality and acute deaths in California, 2000–2012

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Abstract

Many studies have shown an association between air quality and acute deaths, and such associations are widely interpreted as causal. Several factors call causation and even association into question, for example multiple testing and multiple modeling, publication bias and confirmation bias. Many published studies are difficult or impossible to reproduce because of lack of access to confidential data sources. Here we make publically available a dataset containing daily air quality levels, PM2.5 and ozone, daily temperature levels, minimum and maximum and daily maximum relative humidity levels for the eight most populous California air basins, thirteen years, >2M deaths, over 37,000 exposure days. The data are analyzed using standard time series analysis, and a sensitivity analysis is computed varying model parameters, locations and years. Our analysis finds little evidence for association between air quality and acute deaths. These results are consistent with those for the widely cited NMMAPS dataset when the latter are restricted to California. The daily death variability was mostly explained by time of year or weather variables; Neither PM2.5 nor ozone added appreciably to the prediction of daily deaths. These results call into question the widespread belief that association between air quality and acute deaths is causal/near-universal.

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