A government watchdog group has obtained documents detailing how EPA-backed research exposed children as young as 10 to deadly air pollutants without disclosing the full risks of the substances.
Government watchdogs say these EPA-backed studies could violate California state and federal law, because children were exposed to diesel exhaust in experiments with no health benefits to the subjects.
Between 2003 and 2010, the EPA backed experiments done at the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles that exposed children aged 10 to 15 to diesel exhaust — an air pollutant which the EPA and the California Air Resources Board says has no safe exposure limit.
CARB found in 1998 that based “on available scientific information” a “level of diesel exhaust exposure below which no carcinogenic effects are anticipated has not been identified.” This statement was made by CARB six years before the EPA-backed studies took place. The EPA lists diesel exhaust as a “likely” carcinogen.
“Not only has EPA been caught violating the letter and spirit of virtually every national and international code, law and regulation for the protection of human subjects in medical experiments developed since World War II,” said David Schnare, an attorney with the Energy and Environmental Law Institute, the group that has released the documents. “They have done so in shocking style, abusing the most vulnerable people of all, children.”
“Compounding the basic villainy of the experimentation itself,” Schnare added, “is that the USC/UCLA researchers failed to warn the parents and children how dangerous EPA and CARB had determined diesel exhaust to be. So there was no informed consent as required by law.”
Researchers sprayed diesel exhaust up the noses of 20 children to see what happened to them after being exposed to the substance. But these experiments have no direct health benefits to the study “except for learning how well your body can cope with pollution,” according to an application for one of the experiments.
Schnare said these experiments violated the Nuremberg Code, which has been adopted in California and federal regulations as the Common Rule. In California, violating medical experimentation laws can result in fines and/or imprisonment.
Documents showing the EPA was exposing children to diesel exhaust were obtained by the website JunkScience.com through a Freedom of Information Act Request. JunkScience.com and EPA critics say the agency is being negligent or hiding the real effects of diesel exhaust on human health to advance a regulatory agenda.
“The only way EPA, USC and UCLA are not guilty of illegal experimentation is if EPA and CARB had wildly exaggerated the dangers of diesel exhaust,” said Craig Rucker, president of Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, a conservative group that released the documents alongside EELI.
“But in that case, the two regulators have then been grossly misleading the public and Congress in order to issue scientifically unsupported and costly regulations,” Rucker said.
“If EPA and CARB have not lied about the science, then the EPA and the researchers conducted flatly illegal experiments and lied to the children and other human subjects involved in the experiments,” writes JunkScience.com. “In this case, the institutions and individuals involved should be investigated, and subject to civil and criminal liability as prescribed by law.”
According to CARB, the EPA set its concentration “value of 5 µg/m3 for noncancer effects of diesel exhaust.” But children were exposed to up to 300 micrograms per cubic meter — 60 times higher than what the EPA says is safe.
Diesel exhaust is largely made up of fine particulate matter, known as PM2.5, which the EPA has said is deadly when exposed too. The agency was criticized last year after a government report surfaced that the agency exposed the elderly and people with breathing disorders to PM2.5 in a series of experiments done in 2010 and 2011.
The EPA inspector general said “the EPA did not include information on long-term cancer risks in its diesel exhaust studies’ consent forms,” adding that an agency manager “considered these long-term risks minimal for short-term study exposures.” The IG’s report found that “human subjects were not informed of this risk in the consent form.”
“This lack of warning about PM,” said the IG report, “is also different from the EPA’s public image about PM.”