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Byline: Daily News Staff and Wire

An environmental group Thursday linked 45 cases of sudden infant death syndrome that occurred in 1994 to poor air quality in the greater Los Angeles area.

But the Environmental Working Group's comparison between infant death rates and pollution levels - based on information included in a previously published report - immediately came under attack by critics who said they don't accept the premise of either study.

``The bottom line is that further research is needed to even say this is a risk factor,'' said Phipps Cohe, national public affairs director for the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Alliance, which tracks cases, as well as providing information and counseling on the illness.

The SIDS Alliance said the assertion of a link between pollution and sudden infant death is far from proved, because it is based on an analysis of numbers and not on research on the tissues of babies who died.

The Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Working Group's comparisons were based on a recent study by scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Center for Health Statistics.

In that study, published in the latest issue of Environmental Health Perspectives, scientists found a relationship between high levels of particulate matter - another name for dirt, soot and other tiny pollutants - and cases of SIDS, a mysterious illness that inexplicably kills infants in their sleep.

That study found that infants exposed to high levels of particulate air pollution are 25 percent more likely to die of SIDS.

The nonprofit EWG extrapolated those findings and broke them down geographically, based on actual mortality figures.

In 1994, the most recent year for which data is available, about 3,800 infants died from SIDS or ``crib death.'' Of those, 177 were in the greater Los Angeles area, including Orange and Riverside counties.

With its notoriously bad air, Los Angeles had the highest number of pollution-linked SIDS deaths for 1994, according to the report, followed by the New York-New Jersey area with 29 deaths.

EPA scientist Dr. Tracey Woodruff, one of the authors of the original study on which the Environmental Working Group based its own statements, said the methodology ``looks reasonable,'' but said she and her research partners opted not to extrapolate statistics based on their findings.

``We felt that the study stood on its own in that way, and it wasn't really necessary to compute the numbers,'' she added.

Woodruff cautioned that her research only indicated that particulate matter is a factor in some SIDS deaths, not a cause, an important distinction.

Although little is known about the cause of SIDS, parents are generally told to: have infants sleep on their backs, rather than their stomachs; to avoid smoking near their children; and to make sure bedding is firm so that babies don't sink into it.
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Article Details
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Jul 11, 1997

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