Tuesday, August 28, 2018

It's the Stupid, Economy!

Downtown Phoenix. Photo by Pat Shanahan/The Republic.

Some new research suggests air pollution has a "huge" negative effect on cognitive function, and the effects are most severe on men, older people, and those with less formal education:
The research was conducted in China but is relevant across the world, with 95% of the global population breathing unsafe air. It found that high pollution levels led to significant drops in test scores in language and arithmetic, with the average impact equivalent to having lost a year of the person’s education.
“Polluted air can cause everyone to reduce their level of education by one year, which is huge,” said Xi Chen at Yale School of Public Health in the US, a member of the research team. “But we know the effect is worse for the elderly, especially those over 64, and for men, and for those with low education. If we calculate [the loss] for those, it may be a few years of education.”
It's the Trump voter!

Warning: Correlation is not causation, and it's just one study, and it's not obvious to me that this is the right way to measure cognitive function, but still. Checking with Dr. Google whether there's any way to look for an association between air pollution and the Trump vote, I find the following anecdotal evidence, from the San Joaquin Valley, where Kevin McCarthy gets reelected to Congress every second year:
The country's most productive farming region is engulfed by some of the nation's dirtiest skies, forcing the state's largest air district to spend more than $40 billion in the past quarter-century to enforce hundreds of stringent pollution rules.
The investment has steadily driven down the number of days with unhealthy air — but on hot, windless days, a brown haze still hangs overhead, sending wheezing people with tight chests to emergency rooms and hundreds each year to an early grave.... [but]
Officials in the relatively conservative region have seized upon the election of Donald Trump, who won the popular vote in half of the district's eight counties in November — a far stronger performance than in most of California.
The district's website prominently displays a report titled "Presidential Transition White Paper" that the director provided to the incoming Trump administration in calling for the elimination of the federal Air Act's "costly bureaucratic red tape."

Albee said Washoe County already struggles to meet federal clean air standards for pollutants such as ozone, which can increase the frequency of asthma attacks, exacerbate symptoms of lung diseases and damage lungs even after symptoms wane.
If the Trump administration successfully loosens standards for fuel economy and tailpipe emissions, the additional pollution would make attaining clean air standards at the local level even more difficult, Albee said...
Despite credible warnings that weaker air quality standards could mean more local regulations and worse public health outcomes, Northern Nevada Republicans in Congress aren’t speaking out on the issue.
Neither Rep. Mark Amodei nor Sen. Dean Heller responded to repeated calls for comment on Trump’s efforts to loosen pollution standards.
And we know about the insanity everywhere in Appalachia where there's a coal industry.

Is air quality worse in Republican Orange County than Democratic LA? I don't know. I've been staring at pollution maps and political maps of Texas and New Jersey without getting a good sense of whether they tell you anything. The least polluted part of Texas really is in the Democratic southwest, though.
Via Reddit.

Via Creative Methods.

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