The Abandonment of Evidence in Air Pollution Policy

In a recent paper published in Science, Dr. Francesca Dominici and Gretchen Goldman of the Union of Concerned Scientists raise the alarm regarding proposed changes to the EPA’s methods for assessing the health risks of fine particulate matter.  The changes recommended by the EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) limit the types of epidemiological studies used to assess the risks of air pollution, putting the EPA in a double bind – accepting the changes would fundamentally alter the agency’s approach for scientific assessment, while ignoring the recommendations of the agency’s top scientific advisors on air pollution would further erode confidence in peer review in policy decision making.  The makeup of CASAC reflects the current Administration’s reliance upon industry-funded scientists to set policy, a reliance which has potential consequences for the health of over 23 million Americans.  According to Dominici and Goldman, “If the administration sets air pollution standards that fail to rely on the weight of the evidence on air pollution and health, not only are we casting scientific progress aside, but we risk the health of thousands breathing unhealthy air.” For more on the study, see HSPH news coverage and a recent article from the Los Angeles Times.