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Harvard Six Cities Study

  • In: Encyclopedia of Epidemiology
  • Edited by: Sarah Boslaugh
  • Subject:Public Health (general), Public Health Research Methods , Epidemiology & Biostatistics

The Harvard Six Cities Study was a large-scale study of the effects on human health of fossil fuel emissions, in particular, sulfur dioxide and respirable particulate matter (soot). It was inaugurated by Benjamin Ferris and involved many faculty members and researchers at Harvard University, including John Spengler, Douglas Dockery, and Frank Speizer. This study provided evidence that, in concert with similar results from other studies, prompted the Environmental Protection Agency to raise air quality standards.

One impetus for the study was a belief in the United States in the 1970s that, due to the Middle East oil embargo, high-sulfur coal would be used more widely as an energy source in the future. Coal was a well-known source of air pollution (e.g., the combination of pollution ...

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