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Suit casts spotlight on EPA's human soot experiments
Opponents of EPA soot science are asking the agency to pick a side: evil or inept.
October 2, 2012

Posted by Matt Dempsey matt_dempsey@epw.senate.gov 

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PoliticoPro

Suit casts spotlight on EPA's human soot experiments
By Erica Martinson

10/2/12 6:00 AM EDT

Link to article: https://www.politicopro.com/go/?id=14657 

Opponents of EPA soot science are asking the agency to pick a side: evil or inept.

A lawsuit being trumpeted by Sen. Jim Inhofe makes the most lurid of accusations against the agency's long-running experiments on the health effects of particulate matter, explicitly likening them to Nazi atrocities.

The suit, by website publisher Steve Milloy, offers the EPA two unattractive options: either admit that the agency deliberately exposed the sick and elderly to dangerous air pollution, or admit that soot isn't that hazardous after all - undermining the agency's regulations.
Agency lawyers will probably look to defend the agency with a third option: arguing that the studies use carefully calibrated short-term exposure to air pollution, similar to what many people experience in cities such as Los Angeles and Beijing.

The EPA didn't respond to questions about the lawsuit Monday.
Milloy, who filed the federal suit last week in Alexandria, Va., runs JunkScience.com, a website dedicated to taking down bad science - and the EPA. He also wrote the book "Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them."

Inhofe jumped into the fray Monday, asking Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) to hold hearings on the issue during the lame-duck session. The Oklahoma Republican wrote that "EPA may be criminally liable for its conduct."

When asked about Inhofe's letter, a Senate source said the committee's Democrats are looking into the issue.

Milloy's supporters note that in 2005, Boxer and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) dug into the EPA for human studies involving pesticides.

This is not Milloy's first hit at the testing. Milloy asked EPA's inspector general to investigate the issue in May, arguing then that the EPA both risked lives and skewed the results to focus on the few test subjects who reacted negatively to the pollution. In June, Milloy filed a complaint with the North Carolina Medical Board, saying three University of North Carolina physicians violated the Hippocratic Oath by participating in the testing.

EPA's Office of Inspector General said the office traditionally does not comment on investigations into alleged criminal behavior, even to confirm or deny their existence. Like EPA, the UNC research media office did not respond Monday to questions about the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that the EPA broke numerous laws when it comes to human experimentation. It says that because the agency and many of its officials often speak to the deadly effects of soot, having humans breathe it to research the effects is analogous to Nazi war crimes.

The lawsuit says that Milloy's uncle was imprisoned at the Mauthausen concentration camp during World War II and that therefore "Milloy has accepted as a family responsibility the fight against any government who subjects its citizens to inhumane treatment."

The legal standards that Milloy charges EPA violated include the Nuremberg Code, rules developed after the Tuskegee syphilis experiments and an EPA regulation that protects human subjects.

But the flip side of the case is quickly evident: If soot isn't so bad, then the EPA should just say so.

EPA officials and scientific assessments have said that any exposure to fine soot - also known as PM2.5 - is too much. "In the agency's most recent scientific assessment of PM2.5, the EPA concluded that PM2.5 can kill people shortly after exposure," the lawsuit says, and the 2004 and 2009 scientific assessments found no safe level of PM2.5.

On the other hand, "If EPA does not have such liability, then PM2.5 must not be as dangerous as claimed," Milloy says on a new website about EPA human testing. "This then draws into question the validity of its scientific assessments, PM2.5 regulations and related public statements."

The lawsuit eyes four EPA studies in particular, beginning in 2004, 2007, 2008 and this year.

The website for EPA studies - last tagged in a Google cache on Sept. 15 - appeared to be unavailable Monday.

The most recent study in August was still seeking participants ages 50-75 on whom to test exposure to particulate matter from car and coal-fired power plants, particularly in relation to several genes, according to the website.

"Some recent studies have shown that people carrying a mutation in this specific gene, which renders this gene inactive, may be more susceptible to the effects of air pollutants," the cached page says. "Results from this study will increase the understanding of how gaseous and particulate air pollutants (which causes the haze seen in some polluted cities) may adversely affect the functioning of the human cardiovascular and respiratory systems. This understanding may be especially important for patients with heart diseases."

The description said people participating in the study would "breathe clean filtered air and air with carefully controlled amounts of pollution particles."

In addition to Inhofe, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is also eyeing Milloy's EPA testing data.
Commission toxicologist Stephanie Shirley cited the results of Milloy's FOIA request to EPA in a recent webinar on EPA regulations held by the Council of

State Governments, saying the recent studies prove that exposure to particulate matter doesn't increase deaths or justify more stringent regulations.

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