Nav: Home

Concerns regarding proposed changes to EPA's causality framework

March 21, 2019

In this Policy Forum, Gretchen Goldman and Francesca Dominici raise concerns over recent developments at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that "stand to quietly upend the time-tested and scientifically backed process the agency relies on to protect the public from ambient air pollution." Goldman and Dominici cite proposed changes to how the EPA handles causality between air pollutants and health effects. An alternative approach to causality in this context, called manipulative causation, is being promoted by Tony Cox, the current chair of the EPA Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC). The CASAC provides independent advice to the EPA Administrator. As CASAC Chair, Cox will oversee the committee's development of a scientific recommendation to the EPA administrator on whether a new ambient particulate matter standard should be set in order to protect public health in the U.S. Cox's proposed approach here, the authors explain, argues that in order to inform causality, data must pass the test of manipulative causation; the assumption of this framework is that implementing a new, more stringent air quality standard must measurably change health outcomes, and unless there is direct evidence of this, the regulatory action shouldn't be taken. The framework further argues that epidemiological studies only provide evidence of an association between exposure to air pollution and health effects - that they don't show causation. Cox's approach calls for several tests of causality, including those that rely on machine learning. "Although, in principle, the concept of manipulative causation can be viewed as attractive," the Policy Forum authors write, "in reality, this requirement is unattainable in the context of observational data of air pollution and health." The authors cite several reasons why, also suggesting the rate at which this approach is trying to be standardized is concerning. They conclude by saying the philosophy proposed is contrary to the overarching idea that to protect public health, we should err on the side of protecting people. "Importantly," they conclude, "if the particulate matter and ozone standards are loosened, people will suffer the consequences." The matters discussed in the Policy Forum will be explored at a meeting on 28 March.
-end-


American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related Air Pollution Articles:

Combatting air pollution with nature
Air pollution is composed of particles and gases that can have negative impacts on both the environment and human health.
Nature might be better than tech at reducing air pollution
Adding plants and trees to the landscapes near factories and other pollution sources could reduce air pollution by an average of 27 percent, new research suggests.
Aspirin may prevent air pollution harms
A new study is the first to report evidence that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin may lessen the adverse effects of air pollution exposure on lung function.
Curbing indoor air pollution in India
Clean cooking energy transitions are extremely challenging to achieve, but they offer enormous potential health, environmental, and societal benefits.
Exposure to air pollution in India is associated with more hypertension in women
The CHAI project assessed the link between fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and black carbon and blood pressure in over 5,500 people living in a peri-urban area near Hyderabad city
Study finds link between hypertension and air pollution
A new study soon to appear in the Faculty of Public Health's Journal of Public Health, published by Oxford University Press, suggests that air pollution and living in apartment buildings may be associated with an increased risk for dangerous conditions like heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
Study sheds new light on the harms of air pollution
A new University at Buffalo study based on levels before, during and after the Beijing Olympics reveals how air pollution affects the human body at the level of metabolites.
Severe air pollution can cause birth defects, deaths
In a comprehensive study, researchers from Texas A&M University have determined that harmful particulate matter in the atmosphere can produce birth defects and even fatalities during pregnancy using the animal model.
A new view of wintertime air pollution
The team's unexpected finding suggests that in the US West and elsewhere, certain efforts to reduce harmful wintertime air pollution could backfire.
Study examines indoor exposure to air pollution
In an Indoor Air study conducted in a suburb of the city of Kuopio, Finland, relatively short-lasting wood and candle burning of a few hours increased residents' daily exposure to potentially hazardous particulate air pollution.
More Air Pollution News and Air Pollution Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Risk
Why do we revere risk-takers, even when their actions terrify us? Why are some better at taking risks than others? This hour, TED speakers explore the alluring, dangerous, and calculated sides of risk. Guests include professional rock climber Alex Honnold, economist Mariana Mazzucato, psychology researcher Kashfia Rahman, structural engineer and bridge designer Ian Firth, and risk intelligence expert Dylan Evans.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#541 Wayfinding
These days when we want to know where we are or how to get where we want to go, most of us will pull out a smart phone with a built-in GPS and map app. Some of us old timers might still use an old school paper map from time to time. But we didn't always used to lean so heavily on maps and technology, and in some remote places of the world some people still navigate and wayfind their way without the aid of these tools... and in some cases do better without them. This week, host Rachelle Saunders...
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.