The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has long played fast and loose with scientific standards, studies and research data that it uses to generate public anxiety about pollution and justify its regulatory agenda. One of the best examples involves claims that breathing even small amounts of tiny airborne dust particles (particulate matter) will quickly cause serious respiratory problems, disease, cancer and even death. The scientific basis for these claims is flimsy, at best.
But now it turns out that EPA and its hired researchers have gone even further. For years they have engaged in unethical, illegal experiments on human test subjects. Not only have these researchers failed to inform their test subjects of the serious risks that EPA asserts are associated with these alleged toxins. They had them breathe concentrated pollution that was eight, thirty and even sixty times what EPA claims are lethal amounts if inhaled in outdoor air.
My article this week presents the story of these intolerable practices. Thank you for posting it, quoting from it, and forwarding it to your friends and colleagues.
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Agency’s deceptive practices, human experiments and unjustified regulations cost us dearly
If you’re wondering whether to trust the Environmental Protection Agency on mercury, ozone, climate change or other regulatory actions, you need look no further than how it has handled particulates.
EPA whitewashed the toxic flashflood it caused in Colorado. But it says particulate matter smaller than 10 microns (PM10) is risky and worries incessantly about 2.5-micron particles. (A human hair is 50-70 microns; dust, pollen and mold are around 10; combustion exhaust particles are 2.5 microns or smaller.)
The tinier specks, EPA asserts, “can get deep into your lungs, and some may even get into your bloodstream.” Eliminating all such particles in our air is absolutely essential to human health, longevity and well-being, the agency insists. There is no threshold below which there is no risk, its advisors say.
Studies demonstrate “an association” between “premature mortality and fine particle pollution at the lowest levels measured,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told Congress. They have not found a level “at which premature mortality effects do not occur.” Reducing emissions and exposure always yields health benefits.
Broad population-based epidemiological evidence “links” short term PM2.5 exposures (hours or days) to cardiovascular and respiratory mortality, an EPA report claims. Long-term exposure (years or decades) has been “linked” to respiratory disease and cardiovascular and lung cancer mortality.
Particulate matter doesn’t just make you sick; it is directly related “to dying sooner than you should,” former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson testified to Congress. “If we could reduce particulate matter to levels that are healthy,” it would be like “finding a cure for cancer” – saving up to 570,000 lives a year.
Indeed, EPA says all but a sliver of the hundreds of billions of dollars in health and environmental benefits that it claims result from its mercury, climate change and “clean power” regulations are actually due to the “ancillary” benefits of reducing PM2.5 emissions from power plants, factories, refineries, petrochemical plants, cars, light trucks, and diesel-powered trucks, buses and heavy equipment.
But wait! Just when you thought life couldn’t get more dangerous, and thank the lord for EPA, the agency changed its rules and health advisories – though not its regulations for permissible particulate levels.
Epidemiological studies are corrupted by uncontrollable “confounding factors” and thus cannot reliably identify causes and effects, or attribute all the asserted deaths to particulates. How can you separate PM2.5 particles emitted by vehicles, power plants and factories from particles due to volcanoes, forest fires, construction projects, dust storms or pollen – or from cigarettes that rapidly send 1000 times more tiny particles into lungs than what EPA says is lethal if they come from other sources? It can’t be done.
How can you tell whether a death was caused by airborne particles – and not by viruses, bacteria, dietary habits, obesity, smoking, diabetes, cold weather and countless other factors? It’s impossible.
In fact, EPA has not even come up with a plausible biological explanation for why or how super-tiny particles can cause a plethora of diseases and deaths simply by getting into lungs or bloodstreams. Its concept of “premature” deaths primarily reflects the fact that more people die on some days than others.
So EPA needed additional studies, to back up its expansive, bogus epidemiological assertions. The new studies, JunkScience.com director Steve Milloy discovered, involved human test subjects. They raised numerous new legal, ethical and scientific problems.
Not only do US laws, the Nuremberg Code, the Helsinki Accords and EPA Rule 1000.17 make it unethical or illegal to conduct toxicity experiments on humans. When California, Washington, Rutgers and other University researchers explained the experiments to their volunteers, they generally failed to advise them that EPA says the pollution they were going to breathe was toxic, carcinogenic and deadly.
Instead, volunteers were told they would face only “minimal risks,” the kind they would ordinarily encounter in daily life, in performing routine physical activities. Others were told they might experience claustrophobia in the small study chambers, or some minor degree of airway irritation, shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing. There is no way such advisories can lead to “informed consent.”
Moreover, the people who EPA claims are most at risk, most susceptible to getting horribly sick and even dying, from exposure to these particulates were precisely the same people recruited by EPA and its EPA-funded research teams: the elderly, asthmatics, diabetics, people with heart disease, children. And to top it off, the test subjects were exposed to eight, thirty or even sixty times more particulates per volume – for up to two hours – than they would breathe outdoors, and what EPA claims are dangerous or lethal.
So which is it?
How can it be that PM2.5 particulates are dangerous or lethal for Americans in general, every time they step outside – but harmless to human guinea pigs who were intentionally administered pollution dozens of times worse than what they would encounter outdoors? How can it be, as EPA-funded researchers now assert, that “acute, transient responses seen in clinical studies cannot necessarily be used to predict health effects of chronic or repeated exposure” – when that is precisely what EPA claims they can and do show?
If PM2.5 is lethal and there is no safe threshold, shouldn’t EPA officials, its researchers and their institutions be prosecuted for deliberately misleading volunteers and conning them into breathing the poisons? Shouldn’t they be prosecuted for experimenting on children, in direct violation of EPA’s own rules banning such experiments – and for deleting evidence describing those tests?
Thankfully, none of the test subjects died, or the charges would be much more serious.
But if no one died, doesn’t that mean EPA is lying when it says there is no safe level, that all PM2.5 particulates are toxic, that its regulations are saving countless lives, and that the direct and ancillary benefits vastly outweigh their multi-billion-dollar annual costs? And if that is the case, shouldn’t EPA officials be prosecuted for lying to Congress and public, and imposing all those costs for no real benefits?
Doesn’t it also mean there really are safe levels and PM2.5 particles are not really toxic or lethal? Doesn’t it mean EPA’s draconian standards should be significantly modified, and companies and communities should be compensated for their costs in complying with excessive, unjustified particulate regulations?
Shouldn’t EPA officials be prosecuted for imposing unnecessary regulations that cost billions of dollars, kill thousands of jobs, shut down electricity generation, reduce living standards, raise prices for food and construction projects, and actually lower health, welfare and life spans for numerous people?
In either event, shouldn’t the researchers and universities be compelled to return the hundreds of millions of dollars they received for these deceptive, unethical, illegal human experiments – and compensate the test subjects for subjecting them to emotional distress when they realize they received “lethal” doses? Shouldn’t EPA officials be fired and prosecuted for their roles in all of this?
And now, during the past few months, EPA has been trying to use the prestigious National Academy of Sciences to cover-up and whitewash the agency’s illegal experiments on humans. In secret, and with no public notice or opportunity to comment, the agencies held meetings and issued a draft report.
Milloy got wind of what was going on. He and four other experts sought and received an unprecedented opportunity to testify before the NAS on August 24. Their presentations and other information used in this article can be found here, here and here. Will their efforts bring change? Time will tell.
Up to now, EPA has said and done whatever it deems necessary or convenient to advance its regulatory agenda. The health, environmental and societal costs are unjustified and can no longer be tolerated. It’s time to clean house – and start enforcing laws against human experiments and fraudulent research.
Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power - Black death and other books on the environment.