Improving the quality of the air we breathe is well known to have a beneficial effect on human health, especially for those with an impaired respiratory system. When the results from epidemiological studies are published, it is easy to extract headline figures with alarming values for mortality and morbidity which helps to raise public awareness of the impact of air pollution. The figures quoted need to be qualified to avoid giving a misleading impression of what the data actually tell us about the links or associations between poor air quality and health.
As with all statistics it’s important to be clear what type of statistical relationship has been derived and the limitations of the inferences that can be determined for life expectancy. By emphasising the headline figures for the theoretical maximum potential affects that air quality may be having on human health it is important to consider this may be distorting the facts. It is vital to provide well-reasoned and balanced advice on air pollution and health as confidence in the importance of reducing air pollution may decline if headline values are seen to be inflated.