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EPA Adopts Fringe Science Claim That Small Doses of Pollution Are Healthy
David Woodfall / The Image Bank / Getty Images
By Sam Nickerson
Now, correspondence obtained by the LA Times revealed just how deeply involved industry lobbyists and a controversial, industry-funded toxicologist were in drafting the federal agency's proposal to scrap its current, protective approach to regulating toxin exposure.
The proposed change came just two weeks after a top EPA official contacted toxicologist Ed Calabrese, whose claim that low doses of carcinogens and radiation are healthy stressors akin to physical exercise that activate the body's repair mechanisms has been panned by more mainstream researchers.
"I wanted to check to see if you might have some time in the next couple of days for a quick call to discuss a couple of items … " EPA deputy assistant administrator Clint Woods wrote to Calabrese.
The EPA's proposed regulation, signed by then-Administrator Scott Pruitt and published in the U.S. Government's Federal Register, copied Calabrese's recommendations to Woods almost verbatim.
Calabrese, who was also quoted in the EPA's press release for the proposal, celebrated the announcement in an email to former coal and tobacco lobbyist Steve Milloy, who served on President Donald Trump's EPA transition team.
"This is a major big time victory," Calabrese wrote. Milloy, who is also a Fox News commentator, replied that it was "YUGE."
The EPA's proposal is a departure from its long-time "linear no-threshold" approach to regulating the study of toxins: once a substance is found to be harmful at one level, the danger applies at all levels. In other words, there can be no safe level of radiation exposure.
Calabrese argues this approach is overly cautious and a financial detriment to industry. The new rule would require that regulators look at "various threshold models across the exposure range" for pollutants.
Low doses of otherwise toxic chemicals can be beneficial to human health in specific clinical situations, the LA Times noted, but experiments have produced mixed results and experts say it would be a risk to apply the findings to regulation for the general public.
"There is no way to control the dose a person gets from an industrial or agricultural chemical," David Jacobs, a professor of public health at the University of Minnesota, told the newspaper. "It's not being doled out in pills and monitored by a physician who can lower it if the patient isn't responding well."
The EPA has not announced a date for when it will make a decision on the rule proposal.
Health experts believe that if the EPA does adopt the rule, it could lead to wholesale changes to the agency's standards for regulating toxic waste, pesticides, and air and water quality.
"Industry has been pushing for this for a long time," George Washington University professor of environmental and occupational health David Michaels told the LA Times. "Not just the chemical industry, but the radiation and tobacco industries too."
Calabrese has long been connected to these industries and has received funding from tobacco firm R.J. Reynolds, Dow Chemical, Exxon Mobil and others, the LA Times reported.
Calabrese's role in the EPA's proposal illustrates how the Trump administration has pursued environmental policy recommendations from industry lobbyists based on research running counter to mainstream science.
According to the LA Times, Calabrese first emailed Milloy about whether it would be possible to get the EPA to abandon the linear no-threshold model in September 2017, not even nine months after Trump was sworn into office.
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By Kim Knowlton
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EcoWatch is pleased to announce its second photo contest! Earth Day is happening on April 22nd, and this year's theme is "Protect Our Species." With that in mind, we want EcoWatchers to show us your photographs of creatures that inhabit Earth. Send us your best photos of species you value.
By Julia Conley
In propping up the coal industry, the Trump administration is not only contributing to dangerous pollution, fossil fuel emissions and the climate crisis, it is also now clinging to a far more expensive energy production model than renewable energy offers.
That's according to a new report from renewable energy analysis firm Energy Innovation, showing that about three-quarters of power produced by the nation's remaining coal plants is more expensive for American households than renewables including wind, solar and hydro power.
At least 19 people have died and more than 100 have been injured in flash flooding in the south of Iran, the country's semi-official Tasnim News Agency said. The city of Shiraz in Fars province was the worst hit by the flooding, which occurred after a month's worth of rain fell in a few hours, CNN meteorologist Taylor Ward said.
Climate change is having a grizzly effect on Mount Everest as melting snow and glaciers reveal some of the bodies of climbers who died trying to scale the world's highest peak.
The Navajo Nation has decided to stop pursuing the acquisition of a beleaguered coal-fired power plant in Arizona, locking in the plant to be taken offline and its associated coal mine to close later this year.
A Navajo Nation Council committee voted 11-9 last week to stop pursuing the purchase of the 2,250-megawatt Navajo Generating Station, which with the Kayenta coal mine provides more than 800 jobs to primarily Navajo and Hopi workers as well as tribal royalties.
A coalition of utilities that own the plant said in 2017 it would cease operations due to increased economic pressure, and the plant's future has proved a flash point for national and regional energy policy and raised larger questions on how Native communities will handle ties to fossil fuel industries as the economy changes.
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