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In the News:

“Even Low Levels of Soot Can Be Deadly to Older People”

New York Times | January, 2022

According to research conducted by Drs. Dominici, Zanobetti, Braun, Scwartz, & Wu, if federal rules for allowable levels of fine soot had been slightly lower, as many as 143,000 deaths could have been prevented over the course of a decade.

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“Disparities in Air Pollution Exposure in Communities of Color”

ABC News | January, 2022

According to recent research conducted by Dr. Dominici and other collaborators, marginalized communities in the U.S. – particularly those with a high concentration of people of color – are more likely to be exposed to air pollution, the fifth-highest risk factor of global mortality.

Communities with large populations of Black, Asian and Hispanic or Latino residents have been found to experience more exposure to fine particulate pollutants than other areas of the U.S. with higher-than-average populations of white and Native American residents, according to a study published Wednesday in Nature. Fine particulate matters of diameters smaller than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5) have been identified as the fifth-highest risk factor for global mortality.

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“Wildfire smoke may have contributed to thousands of extra COVID-19 cases and deaths in western U.S. in 2020”

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Press Release | August, 2021

Thousands of COVID-19 cases and deaths in California, Oregon, and Washington between March and December 2020 may be attributable to increases in fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5) from wildfire smoke, according to a new study co-authored by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“The year 2020 brought unimaginable challenges in public health, with the convergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and wildfires across the western United States. In this study we are providing evidence that climate change—which increases the frequency and the intensity of wildfires—and the pandemic are a disastrous combination,” said Francesca Dominici, Clarence James Gamble Professor of Biostatistics, Population and Data Science at Harvard Chan School and senior author of the study.

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“Wildfire smoke linked to higher COVID-19 death rates”

National Geographic | August, 2021

Smoke from last year’s wildfires in California, Oregon, and Washington, contributed to a significant increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths in those states, according to a new study.

“The wildfires exacerbated the pandemic substantially,” says Francesca Dominici, a Harvard biostatistician and author of the study published Friday in Science Advances. Without the smoke from the fires, there might have been 19,742 fewer COVID-19 cases and 748 fewer deaths from COVID-19, the study found.

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“Air Pollution’s Invisible Toll on Your Health”

New York Times | June, 2021

Research conducted by National Studies on Air Pollution (NSAPH) collaborators was featured in a New York Times article discussing the negative health effects of air pollution.

Toxic substances like fine particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and ozone form primarily when fossil fuels are burned and enter the atmosphere in the exhaust from motor vehicles, heating units and smoke from wildfires. Inhaling such pollutants can cause bodily damage that lasts for years, if not for life, and may even lead to death.

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“Fight for Clean Air: Air Pollution Causes 7 Million Premature Deaths a Year”

National Geographic | April, 2021

Dr. Dominici was interviewed about her team’s work for the cover story of April’s issue of National Geographic. Described as being “similar to a pandemic in slow motion, dirty air is a plague on our health, causing 7 million deaths and many more preventable illnesses worldwide each year, but the solutions are clear.”

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“Air Pollution’s Systemic Effects”

Harvard Magazine | March/April, 2020
Breathing fine particles suspended in the air is harmful for everyone—and can kill those with cardiovascular or respiratory vulnerabilities, a fact known since the 1990s. Now a study of 95 million Medicare hospitalization claims from 2000 to 2012 links as many as 12 additional diseases, including kidney failure, urinary tract and blood infections, and fluid and electrolyte disorders, to such fine-particle air pollution for the first time. The research demonstrates that even small, short-term increases in exposure can be harmful to health, and quantifies the economic impact of the resulting hospitalizations and lives lost.

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“Impact of air pollution on health may be far worse than thought, study suggests”

The Guardian | November 27, 2019
The number of health problems linked to air pollution could be far higher than previously thought, according to research suggesting hospital admissions for conditions ranging from heart failure to urinary tract infections increase as air becomes dirtier.

Air pollution has already been associated with a number of conditions, from strokes to brain cancer, miscarriage and mental health problems.

However, the research suggests the impact could be far wider, despite looking at only one component of air pollution, chiming with a global review published earlier this year that indicated almost every cell in the body may be affected by dirty air.

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“Clever use of public data could sidestep new rule”

Science | May 4, 2018
Critics of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) move last week to limit the agency’s use of nonpublic data say it is a thinly veiled effort to prevent regulators from drawing on public health studies that have proved pivotal to justifying tougher air pollution limits. Recently, however, one research team has demonstrated what could be a way around the policy. They used publicly available data to produce high-quality findings on the ills of pollution that EPA’s new policy might not be able to quash. In one study, researchers used publicly accessible air pollution data and records compiled by the federal government’s Medicare health insurance program to show that even modest pollution reductions could save more than 10,000 lives per year. In another, they linked short-term exposure to air pollution levels below current limits to premature death among the elderly. They are some of the largest and most statistically sophisticated studies of dirty air’s health impacts, says air pollution specialists. The question now is whether EPA will include them in an upcoming review of air pollution standards.

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“U.S. Air Pollution Still Kills Thousands Every Year, Study Concludes”

NPR | June 28, 2017
The air Americans breathe has been getting cleaner for decades.

But air pollution is still killing thousands in the U.S. every year, even at the levels allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency, according to a study out Wednesday.

“We are now providing bullet-proof evidence that we are breathing harmful air,” says Francesca Dominici, a professor of biostatistics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who led the study. “Our air is contaminated.”
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“Air pollution exposure may hasten death, even at levels deemed ‘safe,’ study says”

Los Angeles Times | June 28, 2017
At a time when the Trump administration is moving to delay and dismantle air quality regulations, a new study suggests that air pollution continues to cut Americans’ lives short, even at levels well below the legal limits set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The nationwide study of more than 60 million senior citizens linked long-term exposure to two main smog pollutants — ozone and fine particulate matter — to an increased risk of premature death.
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“Even ‘Safe’ Pollution Levels Can Be Deadly”

The New York Times | June 28, 2017
Just how bad is air pollution for you? A study of more than 60 million Medicare recipients has found that even pollution levels below those generally considered safe increase the risk for premature death.

Using satellite, meteorological and other data, plus data gathered from 3,805 monitoring stations maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency, researchers were able to accurately estimate daily air pollution levels nationwide. The study is in The New England Journal of Medicine.
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“If the Air Got Just a Little Cleaner, Thousands Fewer Would Die”

Undark | July 6, 2017
The air we breathe has gotten much cleaner in the past 40 years because of hard-won federal standards. And if those standards were just a bit more stringent, thousands of premature deaths could be prevented every year, suggests a recent study of more than 60 million Americans.

The findings, based on publicly available health and mortality statistics for every person in the lower 48 states who was enrolled in Medicare between 2000 and 2012, represent the most “bulletproof” link to date between air pollution and death, says Francesca Dominici, one of the researchers.
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“Air pollution limits in U.S. inadequate to prevent deaths”

Reuters Health | June 28, 2017
With the Trump Administration threatening to loosen air pollution controls, a new study is showing that even existing rules are causing tens of thousands of extra deaths in the United States each year.

Researchers used 12 years of data – health records from nearly 61 million Medicare beneficiaries, combined with a massive databank of pollution readings – to link specific air quality levels to death rates.
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“Study: Exposure to even ‘safe’ levels of air pollution could lead to early death”

THE WEEK | June 28, 2017
Harvard University scientists who studied more than 60 million American senior citizens found that long-term exposure to ozone and fine particulate matter, two main air pollutants, is linked to premature death.

Even when the pollutants measured below the limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency, there was still an increased risk of dying early, the scientists said. Fine particulate matter is tiny specks of pollution that can stick to the lungs and is linked to cardiovascular disease, while ozone, found in warm-weather smog, can cause respiratory illness; build-ups of both are caused by emissions from vehicles and power plants.
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“Even at Low Levels, Dirty Air Raises Death Risk for U.S. Seniors”

HealthDay News | June 28, 2017
Air pollution may shorten the lives of American seniors, even in areas where levels fall below national safety standards, new research indicates.

Although it’s possible that factors other than air pollution are responsible for the increase in premature deaths among older adults, study co-author Francesca Dominici said the findings are “bulletproof evidence of increased risk of deaths due to polluted air in the U.S.
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“Drought linked with human health risks in US analysis”

Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies | April 4, 2017
In a retrospective study of health claims for 618 U.S. counties over 14 years, researchers found that severe drought conditions increased the risk of mortality among adults 65 or over. They also found that individuals in places where droughts were rare, such as counties in Minnesota, showed a larger risk of mortality and cardiovascular disease compared with counties where drought is more common.
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“Harvard launches sweeping Data Science Initiative”

Harvard Gazette | March 28, 2017
A statistician and a computer scientist have been named co-leaders of Harvard’s new Data Science Initiative, the Harvard University Office of the Vice Provost for Research announced today. A University-wide program that will aid cross-disciplinary collaboration, the initiative will be led by Francesca Dominici, professor of biostatistics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and David C. Parkes, George F. Colony Professor and area dean for computer science at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
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“Co-directors of newly launched Harvard Data Science Initiative discuss new era”

Harvard Gazette | March 28, 2017
Harvard University just announced the launch of its Data Science Initiative, a program to harness the vast expertise and innovations that are occuring in disciplines as diverse as medicine, law, policy, and computer science. Initiative co-directors Francesca Dominici, professor of biostatistics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and David C. Parkes, George F. Colony Professor and area dean for computer science at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, are enthusiastic about the work ahead. In a Q&A session, Dominici and Parkes talked with The Gazette about their vision for the initiative and how data science can address serious challenges that confront individuals and society.
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“Harvard plans significant Data Science Institute”

Harvard Magazine | March 28, 2017
The two faculty leaders of a new data-science initiative announced today that Harvard aims to build a significant data-science institute in Allston to support research, education, and entrepreneurship in a rapidly growing field University leaders say is clearly “a new discipline.” In the context of the University’s aspirations for Allston development, creating such an institute would provide a new intellectual and physical commons for collaboration among almost every school at Harvard–and particularly among those physically located there, including the Harvard Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS, which will have a new home on Western Avenue by 2020), Harvard Business School, the i-lab incubator and its affiliates, and research-intensive businesses that the University expects to attract to its Allston “enterprise research campus.” (For an overview, see Harvard Magazine’s  “Why ‘Big Data’ Is a Big Deal.”)
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Cardiovascular disease-related hospital admissions jump on second day after major snowfall

Harvard Chan School News | January 30, 2017
According to a new study by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, hospital admissions for cardiovascular diseases decline on days with major snowfalls compared to days with no snowfall, but they jump by 23% two days later. Lead author Jennifer Bobb of the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, who worked on the study as a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Biostatistics at Harvard Chan School, said that “understanding trends in hospitalizations related to snowfall will help us develop ways to protect public health during harsh winter conditions.” The study was published online January 30, 2017 in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
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“An Obamacare success: financial penalties reduce hospital readmission rates”

STAT | December, 2016
The Affordable Care Act, often known as Obamacare, has caused a lot of controversy. Much of the act could be repealed soon. But in making decisions about future health policy, the act’s successes shouldn’t be overlooked. One of these is reducing the percentage of people who, after being discharged from the hospital, end up back there within 30 days. In this opinion piece, Jason H. Wasfy, Francesca Dominici, and Robert W. Yeh write about how the Affordable Care Act can improve quality of life while also reducing health care costs.
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“Giving a Voice to Future Leaders at Harvard’s Women’s Weekend”

Harvard Chan News | November 21, 2016
When asked to address the powerful group of women who attended Harvard’s inaugural university-wide Women’s Weekend (11/5-11/6), Dr. Francesca Dominici chose to take a different approach, placing the microphone in the hands of a panel of young female experts.
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“Honoring climate change agreements will save millions of lives”

STAT | November, 2016
Air pollution is not only causing long-term damage to the planet and human health, but it is already killing millions of people worldwide. In an editorial published November 14, 2016 in STAT, David Hunter, Vincent L. Gregory Professor in Cancer Prevention at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Francesca Dominici, professor of biostatistics and senior associate dean for research, call for actions that would mitigate climate change in the future—and alleviate the immediate health burdens from air pollution.
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“Hospital admissions for heat stroke declining in the U.S.”

Harvard Chan School News | August 26, 2016
According to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health published in the journal Environmental Health, heat waves are becoming more common, but the number of hospital admissions for heat stroke has declined significantly in the United States in recent years. One of the largest studies of its kind, researchers examined data from more than 23 million Medicare beneficiaries in 1,916 U.S. counties between 1999-2010.
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“Smoke waves’ will affect millions in coming decades”

Harvard Gazette | August 17, 2016
Results from a study, conducted by Harvard University researchers, in collaboration with colleagues at Yale University, found that a surge in major wildfire events in the U.S. West as a consequence of climate change will expose tens of millions of Americans to high levels of air pollution in the coming decades. Researchers have created a watch list of hundreds of counties in the western United States at the highest risk of exposure to dangerous levels of pollution from wildfires in the coming decades.
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The results of this study have been broadly disseminated and featured in a number of news articles. Read other articles published in Yale NewsNature World News,, and Science Daily.

“Climate Change Is Killing Us, Literally — And Here’s How”

NPR | December 7, 2015
This article from NPR’s Goats and Soda Blog talks about the unforeseen effects of climate change and rising temperatures on health and disease, especially in poorer countries that are least equipped to deal with climate change.
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“States With High Gun Ownership See More Officers Killed”

The New York Times | August 13, 2015
This article in the NY Times Well Blog mentions a recent paper, by Dr. Dominici and a team of researchers from the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, which found that states with a higher rate of gun ownership also had a higher rate of law enforcement officers killed on the job.
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This same paper was also mentioned by The Trace, an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to expanding coverage of guns in the United States.

“The heat is on: Causes of hospitalization due to heat waves identified”

Harvard Chan News | December 23, 2014
Dr. Dominici and other researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health conducted the largest, most comprehensive study of heat-related illness to date identifying a number of serious disorders that affect older Americans during periods of extreme heat.
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“An Easier Death, and Less Costly, Too”

The New York Times | November 20, 2014
This article looks at a recent study on the costs and outcomes associated with hospice care. The study found that hospice patients had fewer hospitalizations, half as many intensive care unit stays and invasive procedures, and were five times less likely to die in a hospital or nursing home.
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“What does a biostatistician do?”

Harvard Chan News | June 17, 2014
This article discusses the work of various biostatisticians at the Harvard Chan School. Dr Dominici is featured for her work developing new methods to analyze air quality and the effects of particulate matter reductions.
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“Prevention in public health: What works?”

Harvard Chan News | May 21, 2014
This article in the Harvard Chan News outlines the importance of comparative effectiveness research in public health.
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“Op-Ed: Calculating the costs of pollution”

Los Angeles Times | April 24, 2014
Dr. Dominici is the lead author of this Op-Ed outlining the Clean Air Act and the court of appeals recent decision to uphold the Environmental Protection Agency’s mercury standards.
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“How A Clever Algorithm Can Help Us “Complete” The 2013 Boston Marathon”

Deadspin | April 14, 2014
This article summarizes the work that Matt Cefalu, Dorit Hammerling, Jessi Cisewski, Francesca Dominici, Giovanni Parmigiani, Charles Paulson, Richard Smith did in conjunction with the BAA to provide official finish times for all of the runners of the 2013 Boston Marathon.
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“WHO agency: Air pollution causes cancer”

USA Today | October 17, 2013
Dr. Dominici is quoted in this article which outlines the decision by the International Agency for Research on Cancer to declare that air pollution is a carcinogen, alongside known dangers such as asbestos, tobacco and ultraviolet radiation.
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“Want to Live Longer? Breathe Clean Air”

The New York Times | December 10, 2012
This article in the NY Times Well Blog mentions a study, conducted by Dr. Dominici and a team of researchers from the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health, which found that continuing declines in air pollution are linked to increasing life expectancy.
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“If It’s Not Hot Enough For You, It Will Be Soon Enough”

Time Magazine | June 9, 2011
This article features a study, conducted by Dr. Dominici and a team of researchers from the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, which estimated that the city of Chicago could have between 166 to 2,217 additional deaths each year due to heat waves in the years 2081-2100.
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“Wired for Science”

John Hopkins Magazine | June 2005
Dr. Dominici is featured in this article for her groundbreaking research on the effects of air pollution.
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Featured Book:

Statistical Methods for Environmental Epidemiology with R: A Case Study in Air Pollution and Health 

Roger D. Peng and Francesca Dominici

Statistical Methods for Environmental Epidemiology with R: A Case Study in Air Pollution and Health Book CoverAbout the book:
Advances in statistical methodology and computing have played an important role in allowing researchers to more accurately assess the health effects of ambient air pollution. The methods and software developed in this area are applicable to a wide array of problems in environmental epidemiology. This book provides an overview of the methods used for investigating the health effects of air pollution and gives examples and case studies in R which demonstrate the application of those methods to real data.
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