Patel, Thomson & Wilson (2012)

From Harridanic
Jump to: navigation, search

Smoking increases air pollution levels in city streets: Observational and fine particulate data is a poorly conducted survey by one person, over a total period of 'over 33.6 hours' that has apparently discovered that smoking outside 'increases pollution[1].'

The whole abstract (from the above link)

Introduction To address the paucity of research around smokefree streets, we: (i) refined existing data collection methods; (ii) expanded on the meagre previous research in this area; and (iii) compared results by differing size of urban centre.

Methods We refined established methods; a solo observer simultaneously observed smoking and measured fine particulate levels (PM2.5) on a route of shopping streets in central Lower Hutt City, New Zealand.

Results Over 33.6 h of measurement, mean fine particulate levels were 1.7 times higher when smoking was observed than when it was not (7.9 vs 4.8 μg/m3; p->0.0001).

Conclusions Smoking appeared to be a substantive contributor to fine particulate air pollution in city streets, when compared to levels adjacent to road traffic.

Nowhere in the abstract or extracts do they seem to enumerate other sources of 'pollution' (car exhausts) nor do they actually seem to enumerate anything other than particulate matter as 'pollution' (carbon monoxide from any source.)

All they seem to have deduced is that 'smoking causes the product of burning leaves to locally increase where wind dispersion is so low that it can be measured.'

Another note to make is this seems to have been a single observer producing all the results. No attempt at repeatability with other observers has been made, or having multiple observers to negate any bias a single observer may introduce into the results.

Naturally, the study emphasised the 'danger[1]' (the study failed to comment on the danger or otherwise) of particulate matter in the atmosphere as if it was there permanently and was in no way mitigated by dispersion by wind or Brownian motion.

The study is also quoted as lasting 'five-weeks[1]' even though only a total of 'over 33.6 hours' is actually mentioned in the abstract. Since they're giving values for this number to 3 decimal places, and/or 3 significant figures, we can only assume that the most it could have been is just under 33.7 hours (or 33 hrs 42 minutes if you want it in layman's.) Clearly nowhere near the 5 weeks it's purported to take place (which is 840 hours, or to put it another way, only 4% of those five weeks was actually collecting 'evidence.')

Onto another quotation:

Smoking significantly raises the level of dangerous air pollution in city streets, according to new research that has reignited the debate about banning cigarettes in public places.[1]

Significantly? Compared to 'background' traffic fumes? The study didn't cover this. Dangerous? Ditto.


After testing the air quality around 284 smokers at the Lower Hutt shopping centre from an average distance of 2.6 metres they recorded a 70 per cent increase in particulates when smokers were around.[1]

That's 7 minutes 10 seconds per smoker (33.6hrs/284) presuming each smoker was a single encounter, and they weren't grouping two or more smokers together, or overlapping them. If they were doing either of the latter, then the time increases.

Readings peaked at 26 times the normal level at a bus stop under an overhanging roof.[1]

That number seems alarming, probably because it's the reporter who made it up by dividing some number of apples from the study, by some number of pears from a different part of the study. Or the "normal level" is such a small number that any increase would necessarily result in silly numbers when performing an "x times greater" calculation.

For example, If I have one coin and one note in my pocket and I buy something with the note, and get 9 coins in change, the number of notes in my pocket has decreased by 100%!!! Furthermore, the number of coins has increased by 9 times, or over 800%!!! Silly numbers guaranteed to make headline news.

Additionally, "peaked at" implies it didn't stay that high for very long. Little is said about how long, or how often, that peak was reached. I suspect only once throughout the whole study and it's an outlier.

Co-author Associate Professor Nick Wilson said the study was the first to examine smoking's contribution to air pollution on city streets.[1]

Given that he wasn't measuring general pollution, merely the areas where smokers were smoking, while and shortly after they were smoking, it's hard to see how this study is forwarding any research into 'air pollution' in general.' Unless he's been measuring it over years.... oh, no - it was only 37 (I'll be generous) hours.

Authors


References