Be­ing cold is worse than pol­lu­tion

Central Otago Mirror - - NEWS -

Smoke is bad and when it pol­lutes town­ships in win­ter that is es­pe­cially bad. No ar­gu­ment with that. But to claim, as our re­gional coun­cil does, that air pol­lu­tion kills four peo­ple ev­ery year in Alexan­dra is just non­sense. As a Cana­dian spe­cial­ist on this topic once said: Show me the bod­ies. Be­ing cold is a much more lethal threat to fam­ily health. Shiv­er­ing in freez­ing rooms be­cause you’re afraid to light the fire is a much greater health risk, es­pe­cially for the old and the very young. Link­ing res­pi­ra­tory ill­nesses to pol­lu­tion for each of Otago’s small town­ships is also a sta­tis­ti­cal jack-up. Ev­ery sci­en­tist knows that cor­re­la­tion is not cau­sa­tion and that pop­u­la­tion health is a com­bi­na­tion of many fac­tors, not just air qual­ity. The re­gional coun­cil’s warm home ini­tia­tives are great and they’ve im­proved the well­be­ing of thou­sands of Otago peo­ple, but that doesn’t give them the li­cense to mis­use science to make their points about air pol­lu­tion. Of course clean air is a good thing, and we should all play our part to achieve it. If you’ve got a res­pi­ra­tory ill­ness, you shouldn’t be breath­ing dirty air. But on bal­ance, cold is much worse. Us­ing shonky science to frighten us into not light­ing our fires is bad pub­lic pol­icy. ◗ Mal­colm Macpher­son teaches ap­plied busi­ness ex­cel­lence at Otago Polytech­nic, is a USqual­i­fied busi­ness as­ses­sor, and writes on busi­ness top­ics for the mag­a­zine of the NZ Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Qual­ity. He was Cen­tral Otago Dis­trict mayor from 2001 to 2010.

Photo: BARRY HAR­COURT

Warmth es­sen­tial: Be­ing cold in win­ter in Alexan­dra is more of a threat to peo­ple’s health than air pol­lu­tion.

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