EPA adviser is promoting harmful ideas, scientists say

air pollution
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The Trump administration's reliance on industry-funded environmental specialists is again coming under fire, this time by researchers who say that Louis Anthony "Tony" Cox Jr., who leads a key Environmental Protection Agency advisory board on air pollution, is a "fringe" scientist and ideologue pushing policies detrimental to public health.

In a paper published Thursday in the journal Science, two scientists say that Cox is ignoring consensus viewpoints on the effects of smog and .

The scientists, Gretchen Goldman of the Union of Concerned Scientists and Francesca Dominici of Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, suggest that Cox risks upending "the time-tested and scientifically backed" process that has led to nationwide improvements in air quality and better protection of people's health.

Cox is a Denver-based risk assessment consultant who has worked for the oil, chemical and health care industries—as well as international, federal and state government agencies. Former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt appointed him to the seven-person Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee in November 2017. Congress has charged the committee with providing the EPA with scientific advice and on air-pollution-related issues.

The panel is reviewing the agency's 1,800-page assessment of small-particle air pollution, also known as , which most health experts suggest can lead to illness and death. Parts of California have some of the nation's highest concentrations of fine particulate matter, so Cox's recommendations could have implications for polluted regions of the state.

The assessment, which cited more than 2,800 papers, and was written by more than 50 of the world's experts on air pollution and reviewed by an additional 52, concluded that even at very low concentrations, small-particle air pollution can be deadly.

But at a meeting in December, and in a draft letter written to Administrator Andrew Wheeler this month, Cox suggested his committee wasn't convinced, and he accused the agency's scientists of using bad science and subjectivity in their conclusion.

"My viewpoint on particulate matter science is that it should be held to the same standards as other types of applied science," Cox said in an email, responding to questions from the Los Angeles Times.

Referring to the December meeting, Cox said his panel suggested the agency include more research in its draft, provide clearer definitions of key terms and adhere "to the scientific method."

And in a draft letter to Wheeler, he recommended the EPA put together another draft and allow the committee access to other experts in the field to help them review the draft, as needed.

The committee, whose members have all been appointed since Trump came into office, is smaller than former air pollution committees. The panel is required to have seven members but in former iterations was padded with extra members to ensure a broad range of expertise.

In addition, last October, the EPA disbanded two air pollution committees—the particulate matter committee and the ozone committee—that, in the past, had contributed expertise and knowledge to the air pollution committee's reviews and recommendations.

The current panel includes no statisticians, experts in modeling risk assessment or epidemiologists, for instance. And two of the seven panelists have explicitly called for the EPA to reconstitute the disbanded particulate matter committee, while a third noted at the meeting in December that he didn't have the expertise to evaluate parts of the draft.

"Prior to the release of this draft ... without consulting" the committee, wrote Mark Frampton, a committee member and professor emeritus at the University of Rochester Medical Center, "EPA disbanded the expert PM review panel that had been previously appointed to assist.

"The seven chartered ... members by themselves do not have the breadth and depth of knowledge or expertise in many areas that are necessary to adequately advise the EPA," he wrote.

The authors of the Science journal paper say Cox is putting the EPA in a tenuous position: If they ignore consensus science on air pollution and accept his viewpoint, they will potentially set air pollution standards that could risk .

However, if they refuse to follow his committee's advice, then the agency would be setting a dangerous precedent by not listening to "(what should be) its top science advisers" and thereby eroding confidence in the concept of peer review in policy decision making.

The EPA did not respond to questions about the Science paper. EPA spokesman John Konkus said in a statement, "We appreciate the work of the CASAC and we will review the report," apparently referring to the committee's upcoming report on particulate standards.

Since Trump took office, his EPA has repeatedly relied upon industry-funded scientists to set policy—including allowing a University of Massachusetts professor who believes low doses of radiation and toxic chemicals are good for people to write proposed rulings.

Some say Cox is part of that pattern.

"It's a doozy," said H. Christopher Frey, a professor of environmental engineering at North Carolina State University and former chair of the air committee.

Cox "is using his position as chair to advance an ideology he personally wants to see," said Frey, who described Cox as being as far out of the mainstream as a scientist could be.

California has an outsize stake in air pollution science because it is home to the largest number of people exposed to the highest levels of fine-particle pollution. Tougher standards, and threat of federal sanctions for not meeting them, would force state and local regulators to pursue more aggressive measures to tackle emissions from everything from cars and trucks to agricultural operations.

In recent years, the number of bad air days has increased amid rising temperatures, stagnant weather conditions and a slowdown in the pace of emissions reductions.

Southern California still has the nation's highest levels of ozone—the lung-searing gas in warm-weather smog, which triggers asthma and other respiratory illnesses—and does not meet federal standards for fine-particle pollution, composed of tiny health-damaging specks of pollution that build up in winter air, lodge deep in the lungs and are linked to cardiovascular disease.

The San Joaquin Valley in particular struggles with some of the nation's worst fine-particle pollution, which builds up in the air in winter months and shrouds the area of 4 million people in an unhealthful pall.

But there is hope, health experts say. Health studies have shown that a long-term trend of improvement in fine-particle pollution is, over time, resulting in fewer early deaths and higher life expectancy. In communities across Southern California, researchers have in recent years measured children's lungs growing bigger and stronger as air quality improves.

Scientists and medical experts have urged stricter health standards, based on the latest health studies, which they say are crucial if the nation is to continue making progress reducing the health damage from air pollution.

They say Southern California—where millions are exposed to unhealthy levels of air pollution—would benefit more than anywhere in the country from tougher standards on ozone and fine particulate matter.

Reducing air below current federal limits would prevent 3,632 deaths a year in California, more than one-third of the 9,320 early deaths linked to dirty air nationwide, scientists at New York University and the American Thoracic Society estimated in a 2016 study.

Cox's draft letter will be reviewed by the rest of the Thursday, when the panel meets again to finalize its comments to the EPA administrator.


Explore further

Air pollution increases ER visits for breathing problems

More information: Gretchen T. Goldman et al. Don't abandon evidence and process on air pollution policy, Science (2019). DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw9460
Journal information: Science

©2019 Los Angeles Times
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Citation: EPA adviser is promoting harmful ideas, scientists say (2019, March 22) retrieved 20 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-03-epa-ideas-scientists.html
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User comments

Mar 22, 2019
Why do conservatives want to destroy?
What kind of perverse thinking dominates their pathetic lives?

When liberals are in office they do not make Jane Fonda Secretary of Defense, but the hateful conservatives do just that kind of hateful act.

We must clean house and remind them who they are and what they did to us.


Mar 22, 2019
Nebraska is an apocalypse... with water, not fire. A lot of farmers in Iowa have lost everything because they have no insurance. Kansas has been hit too though not as hard. Meanwhile, Missouri has just declared a state of emergency after nearly a score of levees have broken.

And it's only just beginning; further flooding over wider areas is predicted by the National Weather Service for the rest of the spring.

Global climate change is here now. There is no longer a debate. The only question is whether you're part of the solution or part of the problem. This happened because of a concatenation of extreme weather making enormous amounts of rain, extreme weather melting the snow on the mountains early, and extreme weather melting the river ice early. Get used to extreme weather. This may well make the breadbasket of the US uninhabitable, permanently.

Next up, internal climate refugees. That's gonna be popular.

Hey, what can you say? They were told decades ago.

Mar 22, 2019
Allowing the altright fairytails to call themselves "conservatives" supports their intent to dominate the political system with mindless slogans.

Many people are uneducated for complex thinking,
So simple slogans for simpletons.
These MAGA-ranters are to the "right" half of the IQ Bell Curve.

True Conservatism is actually the action pf taking personal responsibility & practice Civic Virtues. Moderate in their lifestyles, insisting on technological efficiency & strict regulation of polluters, wasters, warmongers.

If the behavior of pimp putin's whores confuses & dismays you?
Their actions are driven by fear & hate that the rest of the World has many people who are smarter, younger, better looking, superior, decent Human Beings.

In their spite, driven by their own feelings of inadequacy & obvious inferiority?
The reactionaries intend to destroy the Earth, all Humanity & the entire Biosphere.
Just to show all the rest of us how much they hate the Modern Age.

Mar 23, 2019
Nebraska is an apocalypse... with water, not fire. A lot of farmers in Iowa have lost everything because they have no insurance. Kansas has been hit too though not as hard. Meanwhile, Missouri has just declared a state of emergency after nearly a score of levees have broken
-and I thought you were smart enough not to conflate climate and weather? Silly me.

"The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 was the most destructive river flood in the history of the United States, with 27,000 square miles inundated up to a depth of 30 feet."

-Seems like floods are getting less severe then, no?

Mar 23, 2019
Heres a whole shitload of bad weather on the mississip.
https://en.wikipe...r_floods

Mar 23, 2019
Referring to the December meeting, Cox said his panel suggested the agency include more research in its draft, provide clearer definitions of key terms and adhere "to the scientific method."

The above, is only harmful to the AGW Cult, who are solely driven by their dogma.

Mar 23, 2019
Referring to the December meeting, Cox said his panel suggested the agency include more research in its draft, provide clearer definitions of key terms and adhere "to the scientific method."

The above, is only harmful to the AGW Cult, who are solely driven by their dogma.


Idiot.

Mar 23, 2019
Anti is just an old crab who comes in from keeping kids off his lawn long enough to make adolescent comments here.

Most have no content, and are probably copied from what someone wrote on his wall.

The facts will dominate, and we will take care of those who kept us from saving our earth.

Mar 23, 2019
auntieoral is just another stooge for the KGB.

Mar 23, 2019
We must clean house and remind them who they are and what they did to us.


Two years ago you elected President 3 inch to clean house. He appointed Pruit and now this ideologue.

As a people you got exactly what you elected.

Now sit back like a good little Liberal and take it up the backside.

You deserve every moment of it.


Mar 23, 2019
Why should the EPA answer questions from the public?

Since the Republicans took power, the EPA doesn't work for the public. It does the bidding of the industrialists who have purchased it.

Mar 23, 2019
The CONsensus of Francesca Dominici and the Cult.

https://principia...e-death/

Mar 23, 2019

"https://principia...se-death = JunkScience.com = Industry sponsored propaganda group.


Mar 23, 2019
The CONsensus of Francesca Dominici and the Cult.

https://principia...e-death/

Monkey Goracle swinging those branches so fast after his previous loss as his redpill sockpuppet, he forgot to post a real scientific link claiming his balony to be true, then again he can't differentiate between science and propaganda, the intellect just isn't there.

Mar 23, 2019
Trump is a real coal-laborator. Thankfully wind power is cheaper, and increasing exponentially in the states that he wants to keep in "wheels-and-wall-are-fine" Bronze Age times.

and I thought you were smart enough not to conflate climate and weather?


Smog and particulate air are tangential to greenhouse gas release in the same way weather is tangential to climate, you won't have much of one without the other. It is true that the current US flooding is not attributed yet, but it will soon be since scientists are getting good at it. However, we already know that the flooding is 10 to 100 times more costly because of AGW [ https://arstechni...h-worse/]:

- tbctd -


Mar 23, 2019
- ctd -

"Two-thirds of the US is at risk for "major to moderate" flooding this spring. ... Under the right conditions, that extra moisture can be amplified into 30 percent more rainfall during an extreme weather event such as a hurricane, bomb cyclone, or the series of storms that has hit the Midwest, Trenberth explains.

"The extra fuel from global warming is what keeps [a storm] going," he says. "And it's what turns it from a billion-dollar disaster to a $10 to $50 billion disaster.""

And the same not-yet-attributed but-known-to-be-exarbated by-AGW flooding has killed 1,000s and affected 100,000s of people in Mocambique and Zimbabwe in the cyclone Idai since last week, with 6 m of flooding at worst over 2000 km^2 of coastal area. The local total frequency of cyclones has gone down but the frequency of high intensity ones has skyrocketed, same reasons as in US (humidity, ocean rise).

Mar 23, 2019
"EPA adviser is promoting harmful ideas, scientists say"

-and other scientists are saying hes not. Who's to believe?
the same not-yet-attributed but-known-to-be-exarbated by-AGW flooding
Im sorry but this does not sound like science to me. I think it's safe to say that scientists are ready and willing to attribute any extreme weather events to climate change at this point
has killed 1,000s and affected 100,000s of people in Mocambique and Zimbabwe
-and body counts are not indicative of anything. Many such regions are more overcrowded now than at any time in history. Does not mean that storms are getting worse.

Mar 23, 2019
But seriously, what do we attribute this catastrophe to?

"The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 was the most destructive river flood in the history of the United States, with 27,000 square miles inundated up to a depth of 30 feet."

-Climate change anticipation? It makes as much sense to attribute current flooding to AGW.

Mar 24, 2019
"Two-thirds of the US is at risk for "major to moderate" flooding this spring."
Let me give you a glaring example of another such AGW alarmist prediction...

"...hardly comforting for New York, still largely unprepared for another Sandy, when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted in May [2013] that there was a 70 percent chance this year's hurricane season would be more active than normal, with three to six major (category three or higher) storms.

Then … nothing happened. With the season winding down, there have been twelve named storms, two hurricanes, and not a single major hurricane to date."

-One of several as I recall. So why are we skeptical?

Mar 24, 2019
How to get thrown off a forum debating AGW...
Ask, "What would it take to convince you AGW is real ?"

Mar 24, 2019
"So why are we skeptical?"

Poor judgment?

Mar 24, 2019
Sorry, . . I couldn't resist.

Mar 24, 2019
The denialbot bleating statistics out of context. Context they are incompetent to lucidly appraise & honestly describe.

My wife's mother was a little girl back in the thirties when the entirety of Orange County, from horizon to horizon was covered with flood waters. She would describe her memories of her family being rescued from the second floor of their home. It was on a small hill.
All around all she could see were the top foliage of the orange groves. Scattered chimneys & roof tops were all else that was visible.

She described how the crew of a Navy launch that had rescued them were fending off the bloated corpses of farm animals, floating in the water..

They stayed with a mob of neighbors at the Armory.
Until the floodwaters lowered enough to safely walk back to what was left of their small ranch & orchard. To rebuild with the help of the DptAg & CCC & other government support.

It is an ugly side of you otto to sneer at human misery.

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