Title: Air Pollution Accountability Studies: Lesson Learned and Future Opportunities
Abstract: Policy makers seek tools to quantify the net health benefits of improved air quality or of proposed air quality regulations. The most commonly applied approach is risk assessment, that is, estimating health benefits from expected or observed air quality changes by extrapolating exposure response functions from existing epidemiologic studies. Accountability studies attempt to validate these assessments based on empirical evidence of the effects on air pollution and health of regulatory actions, interventions, or “natural” experiments. Accountability studies are appealing in that they are the closest epidemiologic equivalent to controlled experimental studies, and thus may provide evidence for causal relationships. Nevertheless, accountability studies must disentangle policy-related changes in air pollution and health from other time-varying factors influencing air pollution and/or health. We will examine the range of study designs used in accountability studies and the challenges faced in these studies.
Bio: Dr. Douglas W. Dockery is the John L. Loeb and Frances Lehman Research Professor of Environmental Epidemiology in the Departments of Environmental Health and of Epidemiology at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. He was Chair of the Department of Environmental Health (2005-2016) and Director of the Harvard-National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Center for Environmental Health Sciences (2008-2019). He received a B.S. in physics from the University of Maryland, an M.S. in meteorology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a ScD in environmental health from the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Dockery has been studying air pollution exposures and their health effects for more than four decades. He served as Principal Investigator of the Harvard Six Cities Study of the Respiratory Health Effects of Respirable Particles and Sulfur Oxides. His recent work includes assessment of the health benefits of air pollution controls. Dr. Dockery has published over two hundred peer-reviewed articles. His 1993 New England Journal of Medicine paper on air pollution and mortality in the Harvard Six Cities study is the single most cited air pollution paper. In 1998, the International Society of Environmental Epidemiology honored with the first John Goldsmith Award from for Outstanding Contributions to the field.