Indoor levels of fine particulates are far higher than outside levels. Cleaning a closet, cooking, cruising through a mall — any takers that these activities carry risk of premature death? In fact, the EPA’s obsession with fine particulates is at odds with health-effects studies across multiple disciplines. Moreover, the agency largely ignores toxicological studies that actually evaluate the impact of outdoor concentrations of fine particulates on cardiopulmonary function. Most toxicological data shows that current levels of airborne fine particulates are too low to cause disease or death.
If the EPA is so convinced that trace levels of particulate matter present dire health risks, the agency should make a case for strengthening the national standard, as the Clean Air Act requires. The fact that the EPA apparently is not considering lowering the current fine particulate standard to one or two micrograms suggests that the agency doesn’t lend that much credence to the no-threshold approach used to justify other regulations.
Despite what you may have heard, the human mortality rate is still holding steady at 100 percent, although life expectancy has increased by 70 percent over the last century.
Environmental standards should reflect a societal judgment about unacceptable risk. The current EPA’s dalliance with the no-safe-threshold assumption to conjure over 200,000 statistical lives now at risk of death is a misuse of science and a disservice to the public.
Kathleen Hartnett White is senior fellow and director of the Armstrong Center for Energy and Environment at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. She was commissioner and chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality from 2001 to 2007.