Monday, July 24, 2006

Science update: EPA concedes new studies show health damage from low levels of particle soot

It is a classic clash of science and politics, and it is coming down to the wire.

Even though the U.S. EPA is under a court order to announce final particle soot standards by late September, the real decision will be made very soon. (The political appointees want to be at the beach in August just like the rest of us.)

So what does EPA Administrator Steve Johnson, himself a scientist, do?

The science is overwhelming that EPA should set tougher new soot standards. But this White House has not exactly been a devotee of good science when it comes to decisions that could cost industry money. (See: global warming debate.)

One thing is for sure: a new EPA compilation of very recent science shows that particle soot causes health problems at even lower levels than previously believed. See the new EPA material at http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/cfm/recordisplay.cfm?deid=151826 or let us know if you need a copy.

As you may recall, EPA based its December 2005 proposal on scientific studies completed through 2004. But the scientific evidence keeps rolling in. In fact, hundreds of new studies have been completed in the past two years. And this new compilation of more recent studies underscores that particle soot is a very big public health problem.

Among the key conclusions of this new EPA scientific review: newer studies show health effects from particle soot at lower levels of exposure; the projected death toll from long-term exposure to fine particle soot is larger than previously seen; larger “coarse” particles harm the ability of children to breathe at lower levels of exposure than EPA’s proposal. And the studies also show that reducing pollution improves health. In other words, this isn’t just theory.

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