EPA Misusing Science, Jeopardizing Children

May 7, 2008




Sean Crowley – (202) 572-3331-o, scrowley@edf.org
Dr. John Balbus – (202) 572-3316–o, jbalbus@edf.org
(Washington, D.C. – May 7, 2008) The senior leadership at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “has repeatedly chosen to stray from the clear and science-based recommendations of expert advisory panels, public health organizations and advocates, and in some cases even its own career staff scientists, in order to make policies and decisions that fall short of adequately protecting children as well as the general public.” 
That was the conclusion of testimony today by a member of the EPA Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee before the Senate Public Sector Solutions to Global Warming, Oversight, and Children’s Health Protection Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
“In some cases, EPA policies and decisions are justified on the basis of arguments that run counter to established scientific principles and the judgments of the most prominent experts in the country,” said Dr. John Balbus, chief health scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund. “In other cases, EPA policies and decisions are made with little justification whatsoever. Greater transparency in agency decision-making and greater adherence to the recommendations of the agency’s scientific experts will help bolster public trust in the agency and lead to greater protection of the public’s health.”
Over the past four years, the EPA Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee has made recommendations to the EPA Administrator on a number of science issues regarding the protection of children that have not been followed by the agency. These include recommendations for setting the level of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particulate matter (microscopic-sized soot that permeates lung tissue) and ozone, relying on a voluntary program to obtain critical information on children’s risks through the Voluntary Children’s Chemical Evaluation Program, and implementing EPA’s 2005 Supplemental Guidance for Assessing Susceptibility from Early-Life Exposure to Carcinogens in an expeditious and health-protective manner. 
“The final particulate matter standards selected by the Administrator for annual and daily concentrations of fine particulate matter were well above those recommended by the EPA Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee, and indeed, above the range recommended by the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, the federal committee charged with evaluating EPA’s assessment of the science behind the standards,” Balbus testified. “EPA ultimately set standards that do not provide an adequate margin of safety for infants and children.”
“The EPA Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee noted that a number of child-specific outcomes were omitted from consideration of the benefit of reducing the ozone standard, including school absences, doctor visits, medication use, and decreased resistance to infections,” Balbus testified. “[Yet] the Administrator, going against the recommendations of the leading air quality and public health experts on his advisory committees, concluded that the substantial body of evidence from epidemiologic studies showing ozone effects at levels below 0.075 parts per million could not be trusted. This results in a standard in which there is no margin of safety to protect children from ozone’s damaging effects.”
“There is insufficient rigor in EPA’s efforts to protect children’s health,” testified Balbus. “The EPA does not appear to be placing adequate priority on assembling the scientific data needed to determine and then act upon chemical risks to children.”