Winthrop Health Study At A Glance

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Master Health Study Webbed Health Study Study At A Glance


Summary of the Health Survey Report authored by Brian Dumser, Ph.D.,  CIH
as summarized by the Winthrop AIR Environmental Health Committee


The following information includes some of the highlights of the Health Report. References are provided to facilitate cross-checking the information against the "Webbed" copy of the report itself. 

The objective of the Winthrop Health Study (Footnote 1:)

The objective of the Winthrop Health Study is to provide answers, by scientific methods,  to the following questions:
1. Does  sufficient evidence exist that Logan Airport is having a negative affect on the respiratory health of Winthrop?
2. Does that evidence justify a follow-on, in-depth study that will establish a health profile in Winthrop and the reasons for abnormal health situations?

If the answers are "Yes" to both questions, then the AIR Environment-Health Committee would enlist the aid of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to conduct a study of greater scope.

The Study concludes that the answer to both questions is "YES".

The Environment-Health Committee, with the Board of Health, began working with the Mass DPH on January 6, 2000. For a status report, contact us via E-Mail.

Method of Study
The Health Study was conducted using a technique called 'spatial location'. The town of Winthrop was divided up into ten areas of varying distance from Logan Airport. Then interviews focusing on respiratory information were conducted, beginning with the areas closest (Court Road and Cottage Park) and the area farthest from Logan (Highlands). Data analysis showed that indeed serious differences do exist between the close and distant areas.

Why Winthrop is "Special"
Air in most urban settings is polluted by a variety of sources. Vehicular Traffic and power generating plants are the obvious localized contributors. Winthrop has no pollution sources, other than Logan Airport. There are no highways, parking lots, or power plants; the only roads "through" the town are at its very edge and carry mostly Winthrop residents. In addition, Winthrop is a seaside community, bathed in the breezes of the Atlantic Ocean; any polluted air from Boston is rapidly diffused.  Without Logan Airport, there would be no meaningful pollution sources and a constant refreshing of the air. For those reasons, Winthrop is unique, and makes an excellent laboratory for the study of Logan's impact.

About scientific proof:
When any experiment or data analysis is performed, it is done in search of an answer, or "proof" that something is true. In scientific efforts like the Winthrop Health Study, the best that can be achieved is a strong likelihood that something is true; it is not possible to achieve absolute 'proof'. Accordingly, in order to maintain scientific integrity, we avoid using terms like 'proof', and use instead terms like "Findings", "Implications", "Conclusions" and "Scientific Facts".

The following terms are used to describe the report results:

Common Facts: Actual, simple, obvious facts. Examples include "The Earth rotates around the sun" and "The Earth rotates on its axis". 

Scientific Facts: Hypotheses accepted as true, within the realm of current knowledge. These have usually been reported in scientific papers. An example is: "The speed of light is 300 million meters per second". The Health Study Report refers to many pertinent Scientific Facts in its references.

Findings: Actual conditions, based on solid scientific evidence, and having a strong likelihood of being true. These are the discoveries of the Health Study. After further scientific scrutiny, they are expected to become "Scientific Facts".

Conclusions: The results of analysis of the Findings, Common Facts and Scientific Facts.

Implications: Logical results of the study of Findings and Conclusions, not necessarily proven scientifically but having very strong likelihood of correctness.

Making the Case: Facts, Findings and Conclusions

The conclusions of the Health Study are based upon:

  1. Common and Scientific Facts known before the Health Study, and
  2. The Findings of  the Health Study:
To Understand "References" in the facts and Findings sections below, go to Footnote 2.

Common and Scientific Facts known prior to the Health Study

Many "External" facts are used in the Health Study. Here are a few. When combined with the Health Study Findings, they will be the basis for the Study Conclusions

  1. Published estimates (by MassPort) from modeling studies indicate approximately 50,000 pounds of airborne pollutants are released daily, primarily from the combustion of Jet Fuel A.  Reference XR6: Webbed Health Study

  2. A strong correlation is known to exist between exposure to petrochemical exhaust emissions and a variety of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.  Reference XR2 :Webbed Health Study

  3. Winthrop is by no means the only community impacted, nor the community most highly impacted by airport activity-generated emissions. Reference XR4: Webbed Health Study

  4. Individuals residing in communities surrounding Logan airport show a considerably higher incidence of these diseases ( a variety of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases including lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma and allergic rhinitis) compared to the statewide average Reference XR8: Webbed Health Study

  5. In Winthrop, lung cancer rates for females is 50% higher than the statewide average. Reference XR9: Webbed Health Study

  6. While potent arguments in favor of Logan expansion are being presented from an economic standpoint, once again no consideration is being given to the possible public health impact. Reference XR1 Webbed Health Study  

  7. Logan carries out no air pollution monitoring in the surrounding communities. Reference XR6: Webbed Health Study and Reference XR13: Webbed Health Study

  8. Models are at best approximations of real conditions and subject to considerable error. Reference XR14: Webbed Health Study

Findings of  the Health Study:

This is the information that the Health Study added to the current body of knowledge. There are many findings in the Health Study; here are some of them. The Health Study Findings establish the link between Logan Airport and Health in Winthrop.

  1. The residents of the Court Road Area will experience 319 excess cases of allergy, and 143 excess cases of asthma. (In other words, these cases would not occur in a neighborhood far from Logan Airport.) Reference XR15: Webbed Health Study: Results Table 5, Last column.

  2. The statistical significance of allergy and asthma survey findings is very strong. Reference XR16: Webbed Health Study

  3. A definite correlation exists between frequency and severity of respiratory disease and the location of people in Winthrop relative to Logan Airport. :  Reference XR17:  Webbed Health Study

  1. The closer to Logan Airport that Winthrop's citizens live, the more respiratory disease and symptoms they suffer. Reference XR10 : Webbed Health Study

  1. Within Winthrop, asthma and allergy are twice as common in neighborhoods close to Logan, when compared to the Winthrop neighborhood most distant from Logan. Reference XR5:  Webbed Health Study


Conclusions of the Health Study

The conclusions of the Health study are built upon the facts and findings described above. 

... The Subcommittee proposes that airport activities, most likely the generation of airborne pollution from the combustion of gasoline and kerosene, are indeed negatively affecting the health of the residents of Winthrop. Reference XR3: Webbed Health Study

In brief, the study demonstrates  that serious damage is being done to the health of the residents of Winthrop at current levels of airport activity, and this damage correlates with location, a measure of exposure to airport activity-generated pollution. Reference XR11:  Webbed Health Study


These are strictly conjecture at this point. If the State sponsored Health Study indeed finds that a Logan related health problem exists, they are a few of the issues to be explored in the future.


  • ...while the case can be made strongly for asthma and allergenic disease, effects on other less common serious or life-threatening respiratory and cardiopulmonary conditions which are also linked to fuel exhaust exposure remain an unexplored possibility. Reference XR12:  Webbed Health Study
  • Although the Study proves the impact of Logan on Winthrop, it raises serious questions about the impact on all communities affected by Logan.

Footnote 1: An objective in a scientific study is not the same as an objective in what is commonly called a "Project". Where "Projects" have a beginning and end, with clear-cut objectives (e.g. paint the house,  build a skyscraper), scientific projects seek the answer to questions. Because they usually are exploring uncharted territory, scientific projects cannot be assigned long term goals and cannot have pre-assigned time constraints. Instead, scientific studies are an on-going process, where each step is generated by the step(s) before it.  Return to "Objectives"

Footnote 2: References to support the "Facts" and "Findings" statements are provided in the form of links to the "Webbed Health Study". To check out the references click on the links. When you get to the targeted location, it will be marked with the symbol <XR#>, where the # is the Reference Number. To return to this page, use the "Back" button on your Web Browser.

Tip: Your web browser may not support linking to places within documents. If this is true, you will go to a random place in the "Webbed Health Study". Go to the top of the "Webbed Health Study", and you'll find a link to a table of External References. Then click the Reference you want.

Return to "Making The Case"