The Environmental Protection Agency has defended its decision to fund university experiments that tested deadly air pollutants on children, saying the studies were approved by review boards and were stopped after the agency banned the practice in 2006.
“When these regulatory restrictions went into effect in 2006, the studies in question stopped enrolling children,” an EPA spokeswoman told this reporter when asked about tests occurring after the 2006 ban.
But the Washington Examiner looked into the issue and found that universities funded by EPA grants continued to expose children to diesel exhaust particles after the agency banned such experiments.
“In the next year, we intend to continue recruitment of adults and children,” researchers with two southern California universities told the EPA in a progress report covering 2006 and 2007 activities.
The EPA did not respond to either the Examiner or TheDCNF when asked further about the progress report contradicting their claims.
Last week, I broke the news that the EPA had funded research that exposed children aged 10 to 15 to diesel exhaust particles without disclosing the full range of risks to the subjects. Records of the studies were released by the Energy & Environment Legal Institute and the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow.
The EPA gave researchers with the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Southern California a $3.8 million grant to test the effects of air pollution on children. The study lasted from 2003 to 2010 and involved at least 20 kids.
But the EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) both say that diesel exhaust is a deadly air pollutant with no safe level of exposure. 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.”
Diesel is mostly made up of fine particulate matter, a substance called PM2.5. The EPA says that there is no safe level of exposure to PM2.5, despite testing it on children and the elderly.
Testifying before Congress on Sept. 22, 2011, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson said:
Particulate matter causes premature death. It doesn’t make you sick. It’s directly causal to dying sooner than you should.
If we could reduce particulate matter to healthy levels, it would have the same impact as finding a cure for cancer in our country.
A 2003 EPA document warns that short-term exposure to PM can cause heart attacks and arrhythmias for people with heart disease. The document says long-term exposure can cause reduced lung function and even death. A EPA 2006 review warns that short-term PM exposure can cause “mortality and morbidity”:
When buses idle in the schoolyard, the exhaust also can pollute the air inside the school building and pose a health risk to children throughout the day. Numerous scientific studies indicate that exposure to diesel exhaust can cause lung damage, respiratory problems, premature death, and lung cancer.
But certainly there’s a better way to make these conclusions without experimentally exposing kids to chemicals. Said David Schnare, an attorney with EELI:
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. They have done so in shocking style, abusing the most vulnerable people of all, children.
Despite the criticism, the EPA maintained it did nothing wrong by funding the studies, arguing they were carried safely and in accordance with strict scientific guidelines.
The studies in question did not involve exposure to diesel exhaust, but rather minute amounts of soot particle. None of the subjects showed any adverse health consequences as a result of participating in this research, which was important in understanding how children differ from adults in producing natural chemicals (antioxidants) that protect against air pollution, and why some children develop allergies. All methods and results from these studies were peer-reviewed, published, and presented at professional conferences.
The EPA says the tests helped improve their knowledge of how different pollutants affect children differently than adults. But wait, the agency actually banned testing air pollutants on children in 2006 — right in the middle of the USC-UCLA study.
“Notwithstanding any other provision of this part, under no circumstances shall EPA conduct or support research involving intentional exposure of any human subject who is a pregnant woman (and therefore her fetus), a nursing woman, or a child,” according to an agency rule on protecting human test subjects that was finalized in 2006.
The EPA has also tried to delete records of these diesel exhaust experiments on children from their database, but science bloggers at JunkScience.com caught them in the act. The EPA quickly put the study in its original form back in its database.
“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 CFACT.
“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.
This report, by Michael Bastasch, was cross-posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.