The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
EPA Cuts Science Panel That Reviewed Deadly Air Pollutants
It seems that every day scientists discover more about the dangers of air pollution. It is well known that it causes heart and lung disease, but studies this year have linked it to dementia and found soot particles in placenta. Most recently, a study published in the Journal of Investigative Medicine found a connection between particulate matter and mouth cancer risk.
But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) doesn't seem to be paying attention. The agency, under the direction of former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, is moving to disband a panel of scientists that advise the agency on setting safe levels of particulate matter pollution, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
An EPA official confirmed to The New York Times that the 20-person Particulate Matter Review Panel, which advises the agency on setting safe levels of the microscopic pollutants, was not listed as continuing to meet next year.
"To me this is part of a pattern," Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) Research Director Gretchen Goldman told The New York Times. "We're seeing EPA trying to cut science out of the process."
Goldman cited recent agency decisions such as nixing the senior science advisor position and issuing a proposal that would limit the types of scientific studies the EPA can use to make decisions. In the case of particulate matter, this could have deadly consequences, as Goldman explained in a Twitter thread about the decision.
"The end result here could be a weaker particulate standard, not based on science and not protective of public health. PM is responsible for thousands of premature deaths annually in the US. A weaker standard does not help," she wrote.
In a separate blog post, Goldman explained more of the nuances of the EPA's most recent polluter-friendly move.
The U.S. has succeeded in reducing deadly particulate matter pollution because of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), which are reviewed every five years with the help of scientific experts. The teams working on those reviews include the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) and the separate pollution review panels.
Goldman explained why both are essential:
These review panels are comprised of experts on the pollutant under review specifically, allowing the agency to benefit from subject matter expertise. For example, CASAC will include folks with air pollution modeling or monitoring expertise and epidemiologists, but the PM review panel might include experts on the toxicology of particulates or an expert on particulate measurement error. This is especially important because CASAC is small (seven people). No matter how expert, it would not be possible for this group to have working expertise of all elements of the relationship between a pollutant and health AND have that knowledge for all six criteria pollutants under CASAC's purview. As a result, EPA decisions on pollution standards can benefit from scientific expertise on all facets of the science on particulates and health.
But in a Wednesday news release, Wheeler announced that he would add five people to CASAC and task that group with revising particulate matter and ozone standards, with no mention of the separate advisory panels.
Goldman speculated that the Trump administration was attempting to fast-track the air quality standards review process in order to set new standards before the end of its time in office. That would be a boon to polluting industries at the expense of America's lungs.
- Incoming EPA Adviser Thinks Air Is Too Clean ›
- Science Panel Says EPA Stiffed Its Request for Air Pollution Data ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
That salmon sitting in your neighborhood grocery store's fish counter won't look the same to you after watching Artifishal, a new film from Patagonia.
Get ready to toast bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. National Pollinator Week is June 17-23 and it's a perfect time to celebrate the birds, bugs and lizards that are so essential to the crops we grow, the flowers we smell, and the plants that produce the air we breathe.
The U.S Forest Service unveiled a new plan to skirt a major environmental law that requires extensive review for new logging, road building, and mining projects on its nearly 200 million acres of public land. The proposal set off alarm bells for environmental groups, according to Reuters.
By Teju Adisa-Farrar & Raul Garcia
In the summer of 1969 a banner hung over a set of condemned homes in what was then the predominantly black and brown Brookland neighborhood in Washington, DC. It read, "White man's roads through black men's homes."
Earlier in the year, the District attempted to condemn the houses to make space for a proposed freeway. The plans proposed a 10-lane freeway, a behemoth of a project that would divide the nation's capital end-to-end and sever iconic Black neighborhoods like Shaw and the U Street Corridor from the rest of the city.