As the number of frac sand facilities in Wisconsin has rapidly expanded over the past five years, residents and local government officials in areas near sand mining operations have understandably wanted to know what impact these facilities could have on air quality. Unfortunately, a new study titled “PM2.5 Airborne Particulates Near Frac Sand Operations,” conducted by students and Dr. Crispin Pierce from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s Environmental Public Health (ENPH) program, is so poorly designed it has no value for furthering our understanding of the impact of frac sand facilities on air quality. In fact, it reflects poorly on the university.
Some people incorrectly think hydraulic fracturing — fracking — is responsible for the increase in earthquake activity in Oklahoma and Texas. Scientists, however, believe the quakes are caused by the use of underground injection wells to dispose of oil and gas wastewater. The increase in tremors spurred a coalition of scientists, regulators, industry experts and environmentalists to produce a 148-page report exploring why these earthquakes are occurring and how to prevent future incidents.
The good news continues for people living near industrial sand facilities, with the release of the second in a pair of studies examining the impact of industrial sand mining on air quality. The researchers found concentrations of the small particles of silica dust that can lead to health problems if present in high concentrations are far below the levels considered harmful.
A recently released study claiming to have found a statistical association between hydraulic fracturing and hospitalization rates in Pennsylvania has been popular in the news. However, just about every aspect of this study is problematic, rendering it to the realm of speculation, not science.
In today’s episode of The Heartland Daily Podcast, managing editor Jesse Hathaway talks with Tax Foundation policy analyst Jared Walczak about a new study comparing states’ business tax rates and tax structures.
Government ought to rely on unbiased scientific findings when making policy decisions regarding important issues. But unfortunately, many government agencies undermine the scientific process by using it for their own purposes rather than to discover the truth, a reality President Dwight Eisenhower pointed out in his farewell address more than a half-century ago. The situation has only become worse since then, with government funding of tobacco studies providing a vivid example.
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center researchers, led by first-author Sarah Borderud, claimed on September 22, 2014, that e-cigarettes did not help cancer patients quit smoking (media story here). They based that statement on a study they published online in Cancer, a journal of the American Cancer Society (abstract here).
The association of tobacco use and body weight has long been a matter of concern. In 2004, I collaborated with Swedish investigators to publish the first research on whether switching from cigarettes to smokeless tobacco blunts some of the weight gain normally seen with quitting via abstinence (abstract here, blog post here).
Publishing a study of tobacco-specific nitrosamines in American smokeless tobacco products (abstracthere), Dorothy Hatsukami and colleagues at the University of Minnesota called for the FDA to issue “regulations…to reduce levels of…NNK and NNN in smokeless tobacco products to the lowest levels possible.” The authors make illogical and unscientific claims in their article and media interviews (here).
The New England Journal of Medicine yesterday published a letter claiming that vapor contains “hidden” formaldehyde at far higher levels than cigarettes (here), which made headlines worldwide. That conflicts with a report I discussed last week, documenting that formaldehyde levels in e-cigarettes were far lower than those in traditional cigarettes (here).
As noted previously (here), Drs. Karl Fagerström and Tom Eissenberg have described a continuum of dependence among tobacco and nicotine products. They concluded that cigarettes are the most dependence-producing (addictive) product and that smokeless tobacco is intermediate, evidenced by clinical trials showing that quitting cigarette smoking is more difficult than quitting ST.
In 2011, numerous local-government special-interest groups and elected officials fought against Gov. John Kasich’s proposed reduction to the Local Government Fund, a pool of taxpayers’ money collected by the state government and redistributed to local governments’ general revenue funds.
Swedish researchers from several institutions document that snus use is not associated with atrial fibrillation (commonly known as AFib), the most common heart arrhythmia (irregular timing of the heart beat) and a risk factor for stroke (abstract here). The same group previously reported that snus use conferred no significant risk for heart attack (discussed here) and stroke (here).
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