Feds Quietly Consider Reviving EPA’s Human Testing Program


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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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The National Academies of Sciences (NAS) met five times behind closed doors this past year to discuss the possibility of reviving Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) experiments exposing humans to harmful air pollutants.

NAS is examining the findings of a 2014 EPA inspector general reporting, which found the agency had exposed human test subjects to ostensibly deadly air pollutants without disclosing the risk of death or the total amounts of pollutants subjects would have to inhale.

But the lack of public participation in the study has Steve Milloy worried EPA could be trying to revive its “potentially illegal” testing regime, which has exposed children, asthmatics and people with heart disease to concentrated doses of pollutants.

“I am concerned that absent informed public input, the Committee’s work will suffer and ultimately possibly serve as an inadvertent whitewash of egregious if not illegal conduct by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,” Milloy wrote to NAS regarding the EPA hearings.

“Despite that the EPA has believed since 2004 that PM2.5 can cause near-immediate death, it never disclosed that belief of that to any study subject,” wrote Milloy, who is the publisher of the blog and a senior fellow at the Energy & Environment Legal Institute.

NAS has held five meetings about EPA’s human testing program, but none of the meetings were posted on NAS’ calendar of activities. Four of the five meetings were closed to the public. EPA appears to have attended the first NAS meeting in June 2015, but it’s unclear who sat in on the closed door meetings held since.

NAS meetings assessed “the potential health risks to test subjects who participated in recent studies of air pollutants at EPA’s clinical research facility and comment on the degree of actual risk imposed by the exposures in those studies.”

Milloy has reason to be concerned about the non-publicized meetings, as it was his research that spurred the EPA IG to investigate the agency’s human testing practices. While the IG did not say EPA was breaking the law, they did note “exposure risks were not always consistently represented.”

The EPA conducted five experiments in 2010 and 2011 to look at the health effects of fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, and diesel exhaust on humans. EPA tested air pollutants on 81 people, some of whom had with asthma and heart problems.

EPA tests exposed people with health issues to levels of pollutants up to 50 times greater than the agency says is safe for humans.

“Further, the EPA did not include information on long-term cancer risks in its diesel exhaust studies’ consent forms,” the IG’s reported. “An EPA manager considered these long-term risks minimal for short-term study exposures” but “human subjects were not informed of this risk in the consent form.”

The IG also reported “only one of five studies’ consent forms provided the subject with information on the upper range of the pollutant” they would be exposed to, and only “two of five alerted study subjects to the risk of death for older individuals with cardiovascular disease.”

What’s troubling is EPA publicly says PM2.5 causes death, even in cases of short-term exposure. Former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told Congress in 2011 that lowering PM2.5 levels would be like “finding a cure for cancer in our country.”

Given EPA’s public stance on PM2,5, Milloy asks why the agency didn’t disclose the risk of death to human test subjects?

“The EPA is misrepresenting the effects of PM2.5 to somebody,” Milloy wrote to NAS. “If PM2.5 is as dangerous to life as the EPA claims, then EPA failed to disclose that fact to its human guinea pigs in violation of state and federal law.”

“If PM2.5 is as harmless to health as it described to its human guinea pigs, then the EPA has repeatedly misrepresented that fact to the public and Congress, and the agency has regulated PM2.5 on false pretenses,” Milloy wrote.

NAS did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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