The Trash-Site Safety Council has recently conducted a statewide study of possible harmful effects of garbage sites on the health of people living near the sites. A total of five sites and 300 people were examined. The study revealed, on average, only a small statistical correlation between the proximity of homes to garbage sites and the incidence of unexplained rashes among people living in these homes. Furthermore, although it is true that people living near the largest trash sites had a slightly higher incidence of the rashes, there was otherwise no correlation between the size of the garbage sites and people’s health. Therefore, the council is pleased to announce that the current system of garbage sites does not pose a significant health hazard. We see no need to restrict the size of such sites in our state or to place any restrictions on the number of homes built near the sites.
In this argument, the council comes to the conclusion that the current system of garbage sites does not pose a significant health hazard and that therefore, there is no need to restrict the size of the garbage sites or the number of homes built near the site. To support this conclusion, the council cites a study of five garbage sites and three hundred people that showed only a small correlation between the closeness of the homes to the sites and the incidence of unexplained rashes among those people living there. Additionally, the council came to this conclusion despite the fact that people living near the largest such site had a slightly higher incidence of the rashes. This argument suffers from several critical weaknesses in logic and information presented.
First of all, the members of the "Trash-Site Safety Council" are not listed, which could make a big difference in the believability of the study. A truly independent council could produce results that could be considered much more reliable than one with members with possible conflicts of interest. However, if the council were made up mainly of people who have an interest in finding that there is no problem with the trash sites - homebuilders or city councilmen, for example - then the study would lack some credibility. Without knowing the backgrounds and priorities of the council members, the argument is greatly weakened.
Secondly, this was cited as a statewide study, but only five sites and three hundred people were studied. Although on average there was only a small statistical correlation shown between the nearness of the trash sites and the homes and people who lived in them, the margin of error could be quite large due to studying only a small sample of people that live near the trash sites in the state. It would be much more persuasive were a large majority of the homes and people near trash sites studied rather than merely a small percentage.
Furthermore, the study cites only unexplained rashes as a health-related problem with some statistical correlation. The presence or absence of other types of health problems is not mentioned in the study. It could be that there were other, perhaps not immediately noticeable health problems such as cancer affecting the people living near the sites. Additionally, the study appears to cover only one moment in time, or at least the duration of the study is not discussed. Perhaps there are long-term effects that cannot be discovered by a study conducted over a short period of time. This weakens the argument by leaving out information that could help to persuade the reader one way or another.
To add to the lack of credibility, the study does not discuss the relative size of the garbage sites or how close the homes and people were to the sites. There is really no data present to allow a proper decision to be made restricting the size of the sites or how close the homes could be located near the trash sites. At the very least, the fact that there is a slightly higher incidence of rashes in those living nearest the biggest trash sites indicates a need for further studies to prove or disprove the idea that trash sites of a certain size or location are health hazards.
In summary, the findings and conclusions of the Trash-Site Safety Council are based mainly on speculation and a small amount of indicative data. The disclosure of the council members motives, the study of a larger sample of the population and trash sites, and further information on other types of health problems and relative nearness of the homes and people to the trash sites would give a much better argument either for or against restrictions on the such sites.