A Breath of Not-So-Fresh Air

What do you get when you combine 20 scientists pushing for stronger standards on the amount of soot in the air, and one government agency head who doesn’t heed their suggestion? Thousands of premature deaths from air pollution-related heart and lung disease each year, according to internal EPA documents.

Recently reporters at NPR, who obtained the documents, reported the findings on All Things Considered.

The fiasco started last month, when EPA administrator Steven Johnson unveiled the U.S. air quality standards. He ignored the scientific advisory board’s suggestion to make the annual standards for airborne particulate matter (PM) stricter, despite an EPA analysis draft that shows that stricter measures would save lives, according to the NPR program.

In estimates from 12 scientists who had been hand-picked by the EPA, all agreed that more lives would be saved if the EPA had chosen a stricter standard. Most of them put that number at more than 4,000.

The leaked documents appeared the week after the seven members of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee wrote a letter—with certain passages stressed in italics—to Johnson expressing “serious scientific concerns” that the new annual standard does not protect human health.

It is the CASAC’s consensus scientific opinion that the decision to retain without change the annual PM2.5 standard does not provide an “adequate margin of safety…requisite to protect the public health” (as required by the Clean Air Act), leaving parts of the population of this country at significant risk of adverse health effects from exposure to find PM.

Apparently, just because the committee's recommendation follows the advice of virtually every major medical association and public health organization—and the current standard violates the Clean Air Act—doesn’t mean that the agency dedicated to protecting human health and the environment actually has to put it in place.


Don't people know that when they accept a job, that they also accept the responsibility and accountibility that goes with it? In this case human health and the environment that they live in and breathe also?