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Environ Health Perspect. 2000 Jun;108(6):563-8.

Assessing confounding, effect modification, and thresholds in the association between ambient particles and daily deaths.

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Environmental Epidemiology Program, Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


I examined the relationship between daily deaths and airborne particles in 10 U.S. cities with varying climatic conditions and seasons in which particle concentrations were high. Airborne particles were associated with significant increases in daily deaths [0.67% increase for a 10 microg/m(3) increase in particles; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.52-0.81%]. This association was the same in summer and winter. To examine potential confounding by other pollutants, I regressed city- and season-specific effect sizes against the relationship between airborne particles and other pollutants. Controlling for other pollutants did not substantially (or significantly) change the estimated effect of airborne particles. Socioeconomic differences between cities likewise did not modify the effect. The increase in daily deaths that occurred out of hospitals (0.89% per 10 microg/m(3); CI, 0.67-1.10%) was substantially greater than the increase in deaths in hospitals (0. 49%; CI, 0.31-0.68%). This is consistent with results previously reported in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and suggests that the particle-associated deaths are not just being brought forward by a few days. It is also consistent with recent animal and human studies of the mechanisms of particle toxicity.

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