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Environ Health Perspect. 2007 May;115(5):679-83. Epub 2007 Jan 4.

Mortality effects of a copper smelter strike and reduced ambient sulfate particulate matter air pollution.

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  • 1Department of Economics, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah 84602-2363, USA.

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  • Environ Health Perspect. 2007 May;115(5):682.



Numerous studies have reported associations between fine particulate and sulfur oxide air pollution and human mortality. Yet there continues to be concern that public policy efforts to improve air quality may not produce actual improvement in human health.


This study retrospectively explored a natural experiment associated with a copper smelter strike from 15 July 1967 through the beginning of April 1968.


In the 1960s, copper smelters accounted for approximately 90% of all sulfate emissions in the four Southwest states of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada. Over the 8.5-month strike period, a regional improvement in visibility accompanied an approximately 60% decrease in concentrations of suspended sulfate particles. We collected monthly mortality counts for 1960-1975 and analyzed them using Poisson regression models.


The strike-related estimated percent decrease in mortality was 2.5% (95% confidence interval, 1.1-4.0%), based on a Poisson regression model that controlled for time trends, mortality counts in bordering states, and nationwide mortality counts for influenza/pneumonia, cardiovascular, and other respiratory deaths.


These results contribute to the growing body of evidence that ambient sulfate particulate matter and related air pollutants are adversely associated with human health and that the reduction in this pollution can result in reduced mortality.

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