EPA v. Human Health

Civil Defense Perspectives November 2012, Vol. 29 No. 1

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is claiming authority to regulate virtually anything it chooses based on the linear no-threshold (LNT) theory, not just of radiation carcinogenesis, but of everything. If economist Frédéric Bastiat tried to construct a reductio ad absurdam on pollutants, like the one in The Candlemakers’ Petition to ban sunlight, he would find that what he proposed as absurd is taken seriously by the EPA.

There is no safe concentration of particulate matter less than 2.5 μ in diameter (PM 2.5 ), as is found in dust storms or diesel exhaust, according to EPA testimony to Congress. And unlike radiation carcinogenesis, with a latent period as long as 30 years, dust can be lethal instantly (J Amer Phys Surg, winter 2012).

So far, the EPA has not demanded use of an N-95 mask when using a vacuum cleaner or duster, or that all homes meet industrial clean-room standards. This is a striking inconsistency, since indoor PM2.5 levels are much higher than outdoors, and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told Bill Maher that in many areas of the country, “the best advice is don’t go outside. Don’t breathe the air. It might kill you” (Kathleen Harnett White, EPA’s Pretense of Science: Regulating Phantom Risks, Texas Public Policy Foundation, May 2012, http://tinyurl.com/buqwuzg).

“Saving” $2 Trillion and 220,000 Lives in 2020

Controlling “deadly” dust under Clean Air Act (CAA) rules reducing PM2.5 levels would be as beneficial as curing cancer, the EPA argues. Its evidence consists of highly selected ecologic studies in some cities, where virtually any nonaccidental death involving a cardiopulmonary condition is attributed to air quality. A “statistical life” is constructed by aggregating small risk reductions over many individuals, and the value of one statistical life is monetized to be $8.9 million, even if the actual effect is at most prolonging the life of an 80-year-old by a few months. Risk is extrapolated to PM2.5 levels far below those that are actually measured. The EPA assumes causation based on correlation, disregarding confounding variables and studies giving contradictory results. Most peer reviewers have a conflict of interest (ibid.).

The EPA’s 1997 standard for PM2.5, the most stringent in its history, is based primarily on two observational epidemiologic studies, the 1993 Harvard Six Cities Study and the 1995 American Cancer Society study. Associations were so weak that the EPA’s own scientific advisory committee refused to approve the standard. As both the agency and the authors refuse to release the data, independent review is impossible.

For observational studies, a relative risk (RR) below 2.0 is generally considered insignificant. Cigarette smoking increases the risk of lung cancer by 900%, an RR of 10.0. For air pollution, the RR of premature death was 1.17 in the 1995 study, and was only 1.08 in a more recent study (Jerome Arnett, Heartland Policy Brief, March 2012, http://tinyurl.com/bode7ak).

“Co-benefits” of PM2.5 Reduction

The purported benefits of many new EPA “train wreck” rules derive almost exclusively from coincidental reductions in PM2.5—including 99.996% of the benefit claimed from new mercury rules (White, op. cit.).

Human Experimentation

Unless EPA is lying to Congress concerning its belief in the lethal effects of PM2.5, it is deliberately exposing human research subjects to agents it thinks may kill them. The purpose of the experiments, in which people inhale diesel exhaust in an apparatus resembling a gas chamber, is to cause harm in an effort to justify a crushing regulatory regime. The experiments are illegal and unethical, write Steve Milloy and John Dale Dunn, for lack of consent and other reasons (http://tinyurl.com/bqvtldw).

Litigation brought by the American Tradition Institute is pending (see www.JunkScience.com).

Lisa Jackson, a.k.a. Richard Windsor, Steps Down

An editorial in Investor’s Business Daily asks whether the Obama EPA is running its own black-ops program (http://tinyurl.com/bcv46md). Obama’s promises of “transparency” notwithstanding, the EPA is apparently using aliases in an effort to keep emails secret. “Richard Windsor,” from the name of her dog, is one of the aliases used by Jackson.

Federal law prohibits the government from using private emails for official communications unless they are appropriately stored and can be tracked. The House Science Committee is investigating the possibility that the agency has conducted business it doesn’t want the public to see. The EPA refused to cooperate with Freedom of Information Act requests from the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI)) for access to internal emails related to a carbon tax the Administration plans to propose, or perhaps to its war on coal. Fred Smith of CEI reports that the Department of Justice has ordered the release of 12,000 emails. Days later, Jackson announced her resignation (IBD 12/17/12).

Jackson is listed by the British journal Nature as part of Obama’s “science dream team.” It cites approvingly her work on “issues finding that greenhouse-gas emissions threaten public health” and on regulations that make coal-fired power plants less competitive. In a feature article on “Political Science,” it writes that “the need to win votes can trump scientific evidence on issues such as climate change and public health.” While disappointed at Obama’s failure to achieve a “climate bill,” it generally approves his “consistent support for science” (Nature 9/27/12).

Costs, Benefits, and Human Health

When agency “science” is secretive, conflicted, and nonaccountable, zero confidence can be placed in its claimed benefits—especially when it has a history of absurd claims. The EPA is not deterred from issuing costly regulations even when it admits that it does not anticipate any notable emissions changes and thus can’t calculate any monetized benefits, as from standards for power plants (http://tinyurl.com/annykz4). Yet compliance costs the U.S. economy $353 billion per year, according to CEI (http://tinyurl.com/aefrgop). Economic harm means poverty and unemployment, which affects health. A plot of age-adjusted death rate against real GDP per capita shows a correlation coefficient of 0.954 (White, op.cit.). An honest accounting would show costs and lives lost from counterproductive regulations.


LNT: the New Homeopathy   

The practice of homeopathy is based on the principle that therapeutic effects can be obtained at infinitesimally low doses. Virtually the entire biomedical community dismisses this idea with disdain. Yet, notes Edward Calabrese, the cancer risk assessment practices of EPA, “which are highly dependent on linear dose response modeling, ironically have a striking resemblance to high dilution homeopathy.” EPA routinely makes binding regulations “based on a similar type of low-dose extremism” (Environ Toxicol Chem 2012;31:2723).


Flashback: Dangers of Government Funding

Less well known than his warning about the “military-industrial complex” is President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s warning about the corrupting influence of government funding of science. In his 1961 Farewell Address, he said:

The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present—and is gravely to be regarded. Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

Biofuels: EPA Denies Waiver; Beware of E-15  

The worst drought in 50 years, combined with the federal renewable fuel standard (RFS), has pushed corn prices to record highs, harming poultry, beef, pork, and dairy producers. Governors of seven states asked for a waiver of the RFS on grounds of severe economic harm, which Lisa Jackson denied.

The EPA requires petitioners to meet an impossible burden of proof. In contrast, to impose new requirements the EPA need show only a small contribution to an alleged harm and a minute regulatory contribution to a hoped-for solution.

This year, 40% of the nation’s corn crop was used to make ethanol for motor fuel. Gasoline must now contain 10% ethanol, and the EPA wants to increase that to 15% (http://tinyurl.com/btqblhq). E-15 is now available in a few states, but though the EPA approved it and recommends it, 10 auto companies warn that your warranty will be voided if you use it in any model older than 2012 because of its corrosive effects. These include BMW, Ford, Chrysler, Honda, Nissan, Toyota, VW, and Mercedes Benz (http://tinyurl.com/anldjnm).


A New Verb: To “Pebble Beach”

This method, used by Lisa Jackson’s EPA to kill an Alaska mining project, involves rewriting the Clean Water Act (CWA).

Pebble Beach has the potential to be among the world’s largest suppliers of gold and copper. Under the CWA, the Army Corps of Engineers has the primary authority to issue permits for wetlands, which the EPA can later revoke. It has used this power to revoke a permit in West Virginia 4 years after it was issued, leading federal district court judge Amy Berman Jackson to state that the EPA’s view that it could unilaterally revoke or modify a Corps permit at any time was “a stunning power for an agency to arrogate to itself when there is absolutely no mention of it in the statute.” But it is not enough for the EPA. In this case, the EPA invented its own hypothetical mine, with its own, antiquated engineering standards, and found that this nonexistent mine would harm the watershed. The EPA claims broad authority for its Administrator to prohibit a project, “whenever necessary,” before a proposal is even submitted (TWTW 10/6/12, www.sepp.org).


The EPA Multiplier 

The “number of the week” of 1,667 is the factor by which the EPA multiplies the concentration of benzene found by the U.S. Geological Service in wells near Pavillion, Wyoming, that the EPA declared to be contaminated by hydraulic fracturing. These are shallow wells in claystone and sandstone, not the typical deep wells in dense shale (TWTW 10/6/12).


Diagnostic Imaging, Evacuation, and LNT

U.S. medicine is still wedded to the LNT for calculating hypothetical hazards from medical imaging. Three annual CT lung scans, with about 8 mSv total irradiation, are calculated to risk an additional lung cancer in 1 of 2,500 patients 10 to 20 years later. This is less than the benefit of preventing one death from lung cancer owing to early detection by screening 310 high-risk individuals. However, “potential risks may vastly outweigh benefits in nonsmokers or those aged 42 years or younger” (JAMA 6/13/12). In an accompanying editorial, authors warn that many patients are exposed to “high” (20-50 mSv) or “very high” (>50 mSv) of radiation in a given year from medical imaging. They note that these data are not linked to clinical outcomes. There is no calculation of how many patients may be deprived of benefits from advanced imaging out of fear of hypothetical future cancer (also see DDP Newsletter, July 2011).

While some panic-mongering continues over Fukushima, UNSCEAR has concluded that there were no radiation-related deaths. Acute effects become clear only at levels > 1,000 mSv (100 rem), and it is not possible to attribute health effects to long-term exposures below average background levels of 2–20 mSv/y (World Nuclear News 12/10/12). U.S. Homeland Security is expected to revise clean-up standards after a “dirty bomb” to keep exposure between 100 mrem (1 mSv) and 2,000 mrem (20 mSv) per year. This is far from a repudiation of the LNT, as 20 mSv/y for 30 years is still estimated to cause 1 in 23 people to develop a radiation-induced cancer, but it is 43,000 times less stringent than Superfund’s ideal.  Activists such as Daniel Hirsch, nuclear policy lecturer at the University of California at Santa Cruz, call the relaxed standard “ethically indefensible” (Global Security Newswire 11/26/12, http://tinyurl.com/autvf2e).

Meanwhile, on the Greek island of Ikaria, the “island where people forget to die,” the maximum dose rate is 35  mSv/y. Four times as many men reach the age of 90 there compared with the U.S. The NY Times attributes this to diet or perhaps herbal tea (http://tinyurl.com/8lpvp7w).

The harm caused by LNT-induced radiation phobia, especially at Chernobyl and Fukushima, is the subject of a special issue of Dose-Response 2012;10(4). In this issue, Fornalski and Dobrzyński calculate from an ecologic study in Poland that the relative risk of cancer death decreased by 1.17%/mSv/y (P=0.02), when all types of cancer are included. Under the LNT, of course, RR can only increase with increased exposure (www.dose-response.com).

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