Statistics Colloquium : Dr. Roger Peng
Abstract: The control of ambient air quality in the United States has been a major public health success since the passing of the Clean Air Act, with particulate matter (PM) reductions resulting in an estimated 160,000 premature deaths prevented in 2010 alone. Currently, public policy is oriented around lowering the levels of individual pollutants and this focus has driven the nature of much epidemiological research. Recently, attention has been given to viewing air pollution as a complex mixture and to developing a multi-pollutant approach to controlling ambient concentrations. We discuss current approaches to studying air pollution mixtures and detail their strengths and weaknesses. We also present a new statistical method for estimating the health effects of environmental mixtures using a mixture-altering contrast, which is any comparison, intervention, policy, or natural experiment that changes a mixture’s composition. As a demonstration, we apply this approach to assess the health effects of wildfire particulate matter air pollution in the Western United States.