Why Does Industry Keep Ignoring The Treasure Trove of Data Against EPA PM2.5 Claims?
By Steve Milloy
How does EPA get away with it? Rivers of data and reality run right through EPA’s economy-harming claims that fine airborne particulate matter (soot or PM2.5) kill people. Yet the very businesses being hurt, and even destroyed, have yet to mount a serious challenge. Why?
I have worked against EPA issues on behalf of the public, businesses and even the federal government itself for 25 years, now, and I can hardly believe the lack of action on this major issue.
EPA issued its first PM2.5 regulations in 1997, claiming that its rules would prevent 15,000 premature deaths annually caused by soot emitted from smokestacks and tailpipes. The regulations were estimated to cost about $100 billion per year to implement and, at that time, were the most expensive EPA had ever issued. But when Congress asked EPA to see the scientific data underlying the rules, the agency told the elected body responsible for overseeing it to go pound sand.
Since that time, EPA’s PM2.5 regulatory power has known no limits. In the early 2000s, EPA determined that there is no safe exposure to PM2.5 – i.e., any exposure to PM2.5 could cause death within hours of inhalation. Armed with this assumption, EPA (and its allies at the California Air Resources Board) have gone on a regulatory rampage that has crushed the U.S. coal industry, adversely impacted the oil industry through various fuel and air quality regulations, cost the trucking industry billions of dollars and, in general, cost society via costs-passed-on and economic opportunities forgone.
EPA’s PM2.5 weapon is so potent that even its new global warming rules rely heavily on PM2.5 — even though PM2.5 is not a greenhouse gas.
Through all this industry has barely pushed back. A lawsuit here and there, all of which have failed. Though the coal industry technically won one of these lawsuits against EPA last June, the decision came so late that it made no difference to the industry -– a point which the EPA chief gleefully recounted to the media.
The irony, though, is that EPA’s PM2.5 claims don’t have a leg to stand on scientifically.
EPA says its claim of PM2.5’s lethality is supported by three lines of evidence: human population studies (epidemiology), animal toxicology and human clinical studies (human experiments).
EPA’s epidemiology studies are highly controversial. All rely on exceedingly weak statistical correlations between dubious air monitoring data and death rates. All were funded by EPA and then rubber-stamped as science by the very same EPA-paid researchers. EPA has refused Congressional requests and even a subpoena to produce the studies’ raw data for independent review. EPA also famously ignores studies with contrary results. But past these controversies, EPA admitted in federal litigation with me over PM2.5 that, “Epidemiologic studies do not generally provide evidence of direct causation” between exposure and disease. Strike one.
EPA’s animal toxicology studies are unhelpful to EPA, since no animal has ever died during them despite animals being exposed to PM2.5 at levels hundreds of times greater than humans would ever inhale. Strike two.
EPA has conducted human clinical studies of PM for the express purpose of attempting to validate its epidemiology. It does this by pumping PM2.5, including diesel exhaust from a running truck, into the lungs of human subjects.
These human guinea pigs have included the elderly and the sick, who EPA says are the most vulnerable to PM2.5. EPA has exposed these people to levels of PM2.5 up to 21 times greater than the maximum EPA allows in outdoor air and 75 times greater than measured in typical outdoor air. But no human test subject has ever died or even experienced a health effect traceable to PM. Strike three.
But let’s be generous and give EPA a fourth swing—one at reality. What do real-world exposures to PM2.5 tell us?
In the real world, underground miners and diesel equipment operators can be exposed to PM2.5 at levels a thousand times higher than in outdoor air on a career basis. Not only do these workers not simply keel over and die upon contact with of PM2.5, they actually have a greater life expectancy than the average person breathing blue-sky clean air.
While the average person breathing typical outdoor air will inhale about 200 millionths of a gram of PM2.5 on a daily basis, a smoker may inhale 200 times more than that in 5 minutes. A pot smoker may inhale 900 times more PM from a single joint. Hookah bar smokers are off the charts in terms of PM exposure. Such smokers are also not known to keel over dead.
A nonsmoker will inhale about two sugar packets worth of PM over the course of his lifetime. But a smoker can inhale a four-pound sugar bag’s worth of PM2.5 (about 15 years of smoking a half-pack per day) and have the same life expectancy as the nonsmoker.
In Washington, D.C., life expectancy is about 76.5 years. But in Beijing, where PM2.5 levels are on average 10 times higher, life expectancy is three years greater. Strike four. EPA is out.
All these facts, yet industry does nothing with them. There has been no serious challenge to EPA ‘s PM2.5 science to date. A few people, including me, are working to expose the EPA’s fraudulent science and, one day, we may even succeed. But it will be no thanks to the organizations that actually have the urgent need and abundant resources to do it.
Steve Milloy publishes JunkScience.com (Twitter @JunkScience).