While we are witnessing the daily attacks by key members of the new Congress on health and environmental safeguards, I thought it might be worthwhile to remind folks one of the reasons why we try to clean up dirty air.
New research, published in the American Journal of Physiology, tries to answer the question of why babies exposed to high levels of smog often end up with a life-long susceptibility to respiratory disease.
The researchers discovered that exposure to ozone, or smog, can cause changes in the inside of the nose – changes that can impair normal functions that ward off disease.
The abstract is here: http://ajplung.physiology.org/content/300/2/L242.abstract?ct=ct
Now, before anyone says “Now wait a minute, Frank, these were tests done with infant monkeys,” I will note that, not being residents of ancient Sparta, we do not expose human infants to things like pollution that could hurt them. As my friend, American Lung Association consultant Debbie Shprentz, reminds me, “Animal studies presage human health impacts.”
Why are studies like this relevant?
As you may recall, the Obama administration got cold feet after the elections and postponed a critical EPA decision about how tough national smog standards should be. A final decision is due in late July, and this issue has become one of the flashpoints for attacks by industry and EPA critics (mostly Republican) in the Congress.
EPA has bucked the issue to its science advisory panel. I believe one of the authors of this new study, Edward Postlethwait, of the University of Alabama was part of that panel, which previously urged EPA to set a tougher national smog standard. (I am sure he’d love to discuss this new study, if you are interested.)
This new research will not be part of the evidence officially reviewed by EPA or the science panel, though it is confirmation that dirty air hurts babies – and can leave them with a life-long problem.
EPA has set a teleconference Friday Feb. 18 from 1-5 pm Eastern time for the science advisers to discuss the issue yet again.