Last week, the Air Subcommittee examined the impacts of tightening particulate matter standards on our nation. Although EPA failed to analyze the regulatory impact on the nation, these impacts will be enormous. I was particularly struck by the testimony of Harry Alford, President of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, who testified that the greatest health threat to minorities is access to health care and a tightened standard would threaten the paychecks that cure that threat.
Today, we are examining the science underlying the particulate matter review. The estimated risk today is less than what was estimated in 1997 under Carol Browner when the current standard was set. So while I feel EPA’s proposal to tighten the daily standard to 35 micrograms is overly stringent, I am pleased EPA proposed to retain the existing annual standard.
The rationale to tighten the standard is weak. EPA cherry-picked what studies it relied on, downplaying many key studies that shed light on the health effect of PM, some of which are listed on this chart.
It also cherry-picked what information it provided to the Clean Air Science Advisory Committee in important documents, seriously skewing the review. For instance, CASAC was never told by EPA that the estimated risks from PM exposure is now considered lower than the risk level estimated during the last review.
EPA’s process for this review is also radically different from every previous scientific assessment, calling into question the credibility of the entire review. CASAC is supposed to review relevant science and the public is supposed to provide input. This time, EPA had a cut-off date of April 2002, which meant CASAC’s assessment doesn’t include almost 4-1/2 years of new studies. Only after I asked EPA to collect the newer studies did it do so, and now it plans to issue the final rule without an opportunity for public review of how it is assessing those studies.
Worse, as the General Accountability Office report being released today shows, EPA has failed to follow the National Academy of Science’s recommendations to examine the health effect associated with different kinds of particles and to incorporate a range of particle toxicity assumptions into its uncertainty analyses. If we don’t know what types of particle cause health effects, we may well spend billions of dollars on pollution controls while doing little to improve health.