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Researchers Refuse to Release Data

EPA Joins in Calls for Publication of Public Health Professors' Work

By Paul M. Golaszewski

Two researchers from the School of Public Health are taking heat from industry groups after refusing to public release data from a study on air pollution, the Boston Globe reported Tuesday.

According to the Globe, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) used the study, conducted by Associate Professor of Medicine and Environmental Epidemiology Douglas W. Dockery and Associate Professor of Environmental Health Joel D. Schwartz, as evidence in advocating stricter limitations on airborne pollution.

Critics of the new limitations have called for Dockery and Schwartz to release the data, saying that the study may have been flawed or exaggerated, the Globe reported.

New regulations accompanying the revised standards will cost an estimated $20 billion a year.

The researchers, who could not be reached yesterday, told the Globe they will not make the study public because it would violate the confidentiality of their subjects and would be giving in to researcher harassment. However, they said they would allow other researches who come to Boston to view the data.

"Anybody who wants to come and analyze this data can," Dockery told the Globe. "We have not been willing to just throw it out there and put it on the Web."

The EPA has joined the critics in calling for the release of the data.

"We have asked Harvard to make the studies public," Carol Browner, EPA administrator, told the Globe. "I will always err on the side of public disclosure."

The study compared the death rates of residents in six communities with the amount of fine particles such as soot in the air.

The study showed a death rate in the dirtiest city 26 percent higher than the death rate in the cleanest city.

According to the Globe, independent researchers claim this result could be explained through slight errors in statistical methods.

In addition, research conducted by Jerome Sacks of the National Institute of Statistical Sciences in North Carolina suggested high humidity caused the higher death rate on certain days.

Browner told the Globe that 19 of the 21 scientists questioned by the EPA about air pollution advocated limiting fine particles.

Browner also told the Globe the EPA based its decision to recommend new pollution controls on dozens of other studies besides the Dockery-Schwartz study. However, according to the Globe, only the Dockery-Schwartz research and one other study examined the effects of inhaling fine particles over a period of years

Browner also told the Globe the EPA based its decision to recommend new pollution controls on dozens of other studies besides the Dockery-Schwartz study. However, according to the Globe, only the Dockery-Schwartz research and one other study examined the effects of inhaling fine particles over a period of years

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