Steve Milloy’s recent Op-Ed (“Did Obama’s EPA relaunch Tuskegee experiments?” Commentary, April 25) makes allegations about critical scientific research into how air pollution might contribute to abnormal heart rhythms.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) research into the health impacts of air pollution has helped to build healthier communities, provide new technology and develop new solutions to protect and manage air quality. In the case of research into fine-particle pollution, more than 50 clinical studies over the past decade involving human volunteers have been published by scientists from the EPA, many U.S. universities and medical centers. These describe cardiac effects in humans exposed to this harmful pollution.
The EPA follows the Common Rule, which requires the ethical review and oversight of human research by an independent institutional review board (IRB) to ensure that any risks to study volunteers are minimized and justified. The EPA follows strict human safety protocols for all of its studies and these protocols are reviewed and approved by the IRB before any human study is conducted. Precautions are taken throughout the volunteer’s participation to ensure his safety. In the case of the EPA’s research on particle pollution, scientists studied biological changes that carry no or minimal risk while providing evidence for the reasons that particle pollution can lead to serious health problems.
The EPA has established health-based standards for fine-particulate matter, and these protect the public from serious health problems, including aggravated asthma, increased hospital admissions, heart attacks and premature death. Individuals particularly sensitive to fine-particle exposure include people with heart or lung disease, older adults and children.
In the United States, a heart attack occurs every 34 seconds and more than 2,200 people die of cardiovascular disease each day. It is estimated that tens of thousands of premature deaths and nonfatal heart attacks are triggered by air pollution, and this emphasizes the importance of research in this field. The health scientists and staff at the EPA are privileged to provide safe, ethical, unbiased and state-of-the-art inhalation science in support of the Clean Air Act as we work to define and understand the risks of air pollution to the American people.
WAYNE E. CASCIO
Environmental Public Health Division