A proposed EPA rule prioritizes industry profit over people’s livesRoundup
tags: corporations, environment, EPA, health
Mona Hanna-Attisha is a Michigan State university pediatrician and professor. She is the founder and director of the Pediatric Public Health Initiative and author of “What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance and Hope in an American City.” This article is adapted from submitted House Science Subcommittee congressional testimony.
With our collective gaze distracted by impeachment hearings, President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency is engaging in serious mischief. Word has leaked that the agency is poised to finalize a rule to limit the types of scientific studies that can be used to create new regulations.
The Orwellian-named EPA proposal, “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science,” undermines the agency’s work and effectiveness. Rather than enabling the EPA the use of the best science to protect the public — science that has undergone quality checks and peer review — the revised rule goes in the opposite direction and forces regulators to ignore foundational public health studies. Widespread opposition to the original proposal, drawing 600,000 comments and criticism from many of the world’s leading scientific journals and organizations, is being ignored, and the EPA is cavalierly moving to make the rule even more anti-science.
Why would we want to limit the use of the best available science in decisions about air pollution, chemical safety, lead exposure and more? The flawed rationale for the rule is that these studies are “not transparent” because they cannot release their raw data, which contains confidential information such as personal health data. This is pretext. Tragically, the real reason to undermine the effectiveness of the EPA is to support industry’s bottom line at the expense of the public’s health.
This is where a history lesson is useful. Because the battle to protect the public’s health against industry-driven efforts to limit regulations by minimizing and instilling doubt in science — to maximize profits — is not new. In fact, a battle born almost a century ago is at the crux of our biggest environmental crises today.
At that time, Alice Hamilton, a physician, scientist and social justice pioneer warned that the widespread introduction of lead in gasoline would have a catastrophic impact on public health.
Hamilton’s opponents? General Motors, DuPont and Standard Oil. Both the petrochemical and automobile industries, which had risen together in the 1920s and emerged to form an economic backbone of the United States, had much to gain by the use of leaded gasoline. It was found to make a car run more smoothly — and eliminate engine knocking. And they had a lucrative patent.