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Report: EPA Stance on Air Quality Ignores Scientific Evidence

Exposure to particulate matter air pollution is associated with the increased use of asthma medication in children. (Adobe Stock)
Exposure to particulate matter air pollution is associated with the increased use of asthma medication in children. (Adobe Stock)
June 22, 2020

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Environmental Protection Agency has said it plans to leave current air pollution standards for particulate matter unchanged, despite warnings from scientists that the standards are outdated and causing tens of thousands of premature deaths each year across the country.

North Carolina State professor Chris Frey co-authored a new report in the New England Journal of Medicine detailing the public health implications of the EPA's position to sideline changes to the standards.

He says because the scientific evidence for strengthening the standards is robust, the agency will likely be sued over its decision.

"It will take time for this to go through the courts, and in the meantime, the country will be stuck with an outdated standard that fails to protect public health," Frey states. "And when we're talking about public health, I mean here we're talking about, we could be avoiding premature deaths."

In April, the agency announced its proposal to keep the current standards, arguing that they are adequate to protect to public health. The proposal is up for public comment through June 29.

Frey adds the EPA's stance on air quality is part of a larger trend of changes to policies that appear to ignore scientific findings.

He notes that in addition to laboratory research, several major studies have focused on large populations breathing in particulate matter at levels even below the current standards. They've found higher rates of heart disease, lung cancer, respiratory illnesses, along with dementia and mental health problems.

"So, all of that taken together is compelling evidence that the current standards are not protecting public health," Frey stresses.

Frey also maintains the EPA is failing to consider the inequality in health risks.

According to the American Lung Association, people of color are more likely to live in counties with higher levels of particulate pollution.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - NC