EPA is proposing to attack sound science and clean air protections.
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a rule to censor the scientific information the agency uses in its decisions—particularly to exclude studies that show the health impacts of air pollution.
- EPA is about to issue another proposal along the same lines, but the new version goes even further by expanding the studies that could be excluded.
- Under the misleading veil of "transparency," this proposed rule would allow EPA to throw out important studies that rely on confidential patient information.
- The result: EPA would block its scientists from using the best available health research to set limits on air pollution, inevitably leading to limits that fail to protect health.
EPA already uses transparent science to protect Americans.
- The scientific research that EPA uses already undergoes a long-established, transparent review process. Research proposals, designs, and findings are all reviewed by independent experts. Once published, the findings are further examined and debated by scientists and by the public.
- EPA already makes available the scientific studies it relies on to inform policy. Sometimes, studies contain private medical data that legally can't and shouldn't be made public. In those cases, independent review bodies have also examined the studies and weighed in on the research. No legitimate reason exists to exclude those studies' critically important findings.
- Lobbyists for tobacco and fossil fuel industries have long supported the policy change laid out in EPA's proposed rule, because it will exclude significant studies from consideration in setting regulatory policy, resulting in weaker protections.
Patient privacy must continue to be protected.
- Researchers who evaluate the health impacts of air pollution often collect sensitive data from participants such as family medical history, geographic location, and personal medical history. Scientists and institutions build in systems to protect this information.
- The federal government must continue to protect patient privacy by ensuring that patients' sensitive information shared during research studies is never made public—while still ensuring that studies based on these data can inform policy. Patients won't participate in studies if their privacy can't be protected.
- Simply redacting patients' names is not enough to protect privacy. Even if some patient information is redacted, EPA's proposal would still require enough data points to be made public—such as age, occupation, race and location—that individuals could still be identified.
EPA's proposals would block new efforts to clean up pollution and protect health.
- Polluters and their allies have tried for decades to undermine the use of key studies that show that air pollution causes premature death to inform policy and drive the cleanup of dirty diesel trucks, power plants and factories.
- Thousands of lives are saved each year because EPA has been able to use the best science, but more work must be done and EPA's efforts would block progress.
EPA's proposed rule to censor science would blind the agency to the true health costs of air pollution, leading to policies that fail to protect the public.
Page last updated: April 1, 2020