Trump plan would limit research used to protect public health

A new proposal from the Trump Administration would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from using certain types of data to help create public health-related regulations. Experts say the proposed rule would undermine the science that underpins important government policies that protect health.

Under the proposal, the raw data used in epidemiological studies would have to be made public. But most studies that look at how environmental hazards harm health are based on confidential medical data.

In a November 15, 2019 Q&A with The New Yorker, Douglas Dockery of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health talked about how the plan could harm public health. Dockery, John L. Loeb and Frances Lehman Loeb Research Professor of Environmental Epidemiology, was lead author of the landmark 1993 Six Cities study, which found a strong link between air pollution and life expectancy. If the administration’s plan is put into effect, the study—which paved the way for strengthened U.S. regulations on fine particulate air pollution—could become inadmissible.

Dockery noted that the recent proposal is the latest in years of efforts by industry groups and certain lawmakers to undercut the influence of research like the Six Cities Study.

“There clearly is an assault on epidemiology, making it harder to do studies and making their influence less apparent,” said Dockery. He said his biggest fear, if the proposal goes through, is “that the EPA would not be able to look at epidemiology to identify new hazards. It’s going to give free rein to a whole range of additional hazards in the environment.”

Read The New Yorker article: How a Trump Administration Proposal Could Worsen Public Health

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Harvard experts urge EPA to drop proposal for ‘transparent’ science (Harvard Chan School news)