In a huge blow to public health, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt announced a new rule that would only allow EPA to consider research studies for which the underlying data are available to the public, thus severely limiting the number of scientific studies that the EPA can use in setting health standards. For example, research data that includes patients’ private health information (PHI) would have to be excluded or PHI would have to be redacted before the research is shared with the EPA. The new requirements blocking the use of most scientific studies will help big polluters avoid regulations that protect human health.
“These purported ‘transparency’ rules are, in fact, a thinly-veiled attempt by the EPA to bury the solid science that provides important evidence of a link between exposures to pollution and adverse human health effects. This proposed policy change by the EPA will, therefore, suppress much of our available sound science from consideration in future EPA decision-making processes,” said George Thurston, ScD, chair of the ATS Environmental Health Policy Committee.
“If these standards were applied to what scientific studies doctors or hospitals can use to inform medical care, we would ignore decades of valuable peer-reviewed health research and patients would be harmed. No doctor or medical society would recommend ignoring the best available scientific evidence. Why would the EPA do that to the American public?” asks Dr. Mary Rice MD, pulmonologist and vice chair of the ATS Environmental Health Policy Committee.
The policy that the EPA Administrator announced today will do nothing to improve the agency’s mission to protect the American people from the dangers of environmental pollution, and will instead delay or entirely block science-based policies from being implemented.
“Today’s action is just one more step in this Administration’s intentional attack on science,” added Dr. Thurston. “Step one was to remove scientists from EPA advisory panels. Step two is to remove essential science from the EPA’s decision making process. Unfortunately, step three will be to let big polluters set our nation’s environmental policy going forward. The health of the environment and the health and well-being of the American public will pay the price for Administrator Pruitt’s action today.”