‘Our air isn’t killing us,’ one writer argues. Oh yeah. According to whom?

Lois Henry writes for the Bakersfield Californian. At any rate, in “Unchecked science no basis for onerous air rules,” (second article in the grouping), she makes the claim that “our air isn’t killing us,” following up later on in the same op-ed by basically stating that the proof is there to support such a claim, although, according to Henry, when it comes to getting access to the evidence in question, that’s not an option – at least, this is how I understand things.

Wow! And, I thought I had heard (read, actually) everything.

SMOG_-_NARA_-_542581.tif[1]A seemingly resolute Henry who then goes on about the proposed strengthening of existing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ozone standards even going so far as to utter – and in no less than a stern voice to boot – this: “So, when EPA officials bleat about how these rules are needed to save countless lives, my response is ‘prove it.’”

As it relates, the EPA is proposing regulations that have to do with lowering the ozone health standard from the current 75 parts per billion (ppb) to a more health-protective 65 to 70 ppb level. I wonder if the Bakersfield Californian columnist has read the report: “Policy Assessment for the Review of the Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards,” from the EPA’s Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards Health and Environmental Impacts Division, which can be accessed by going here. (I, myself, have finished reading about a third of it).

Not that this matter is unimportant, but relates Henry: “The more important issue is that these rules, which even the local air district has said would force the suspension of all internal combustion, are based on health study conclusions that no one can check.” (The “local air district” in this case is the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, presumably).

So, regarding these “health study conclusions that no one can check,” who is it Henry is referring to as “no one”? The general public, the air district; who exactly? I don’t believe that information in her editorial was ever disclosed.

Henry in the op-ed goes on to state “I’ve written about the problem of using unverified studies to gin up regulations for years as that’s the standard MO [modus operandi] of the California [Environmental Protection Agency] Air Resources Board (CARB).” Though the Valley has met the EPA’s 1997 ozone standard of 84 ppb, according to Henry, it is nowhere close to meeting the 75 ppb 2008 standard.

Reading a little farther on in the Henry commentary, quoted is American Chemistry Council Communications Vice President Anne Kolton, who said: “‘These new rules would add a whole new level of cost, complexity and uncertainty,’ that could stymie the economy, she said,” Henry wrote in citing Kolton.

Discussion turning to the economy? Why am I not surprised?!

The American Lung Association offered rebuttal, in essence contending that industry for almost 40 years has cried harm and with no ill-effect resulting.

Henry shot back by pointing out that a lot of business, in this way, that way or the other, has some connection to ozone, and by virtue of that, a stranglehold could be put on economic growth.

Next up in the discussion is cars. If not emissions-free, they could add considerably to the ozone problem. Henry seems fearful that the proposed EPA rules could limit the amount of driving by motorists or that a mileage fee could be imposed. Would drivers balk? Perhaps not, according to Henry, that is if in instituting these prescriptive approaches lives were saved.

But it was what Henry wrote next that has more than likely caused more than just a few raised eyebrows.

Here is what Henry wrote: “Problem is, no one knows for sure. And there’s a lot of evidence no one’s dying at all, but you can’t check.” This is backed up by the several examples provided.

What about the physical evidence that people do die from the effects related to toxic air’s inhalation, even if not ozone per se, whether that be short-term or long, is Henry dismissing this?

Once more, I would ask if Henry has read the EPA “Policy Assessment for the Review of the Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards” report or even parts of it. Documented is study after study after study reporting on research that has been done on ozone as it has to do with health impacts, mortality and morbidity.

And, I would add, if ozone isn’t a problem, why the need to establish any standard at all? I ask: How can pollution (the type that can be readily seen in the air) that, when breathed in, be anything but bad?


Meanwhile, in “Research shows possible Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon exposure-DNA change link,” I wrote: “… Dr. Kari Nadeau, a Stanford University medical school professor with expertise in the areas of allergies and asthma, a few years ago discovered that ‘many of her child asthma patients had abnormally low levels of regulatory T-cells, which are crucial to maintaining a healthy immune system,’ Rebecca Plevin at KVPR (Valley Public Radio) in ‘Is The Central Valley’s Air Pollution Affecting Our Cells And Genes?’ wrote.

“Quite interestingly and importantly, of Dr. Nadeau’s patients, those studied from Fresno, California, not surprisingly, had the greatest regulatory T-cell-function impairment, according to Plevin.

“‘Nadeau then compared the regulatory T-cell function in kids from Fresno – where there’s heavy air pollution – with kids from Palo Alto, where there’s less air pollution,’ Plevin reported.

“Studied as well were Fresno non-asthmatic children. Most astonishingly, perhaps, was that the non-asthmatic Fresno children studied showed lower regulatory T-cell levels than did the children studied who were from Palo Alto who had asthma, according to the KVPR reporter in question.

“If I interpreted what I read correctly, the cause-and-effect here is: the lower the regulatory T-cell level or function, the more suppressed the function of the immune system affected.

“Added Plevin: ‘That means, [Dr. Nadeau] concluded, that exposure to the pollution was possibly causing changes to kids’ DNA.’”

I believe these passages from “Research shows possible Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon exposure-DNA change link,” are not only highly relevant but important enough that they warrant repeating again.

Image above: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

– Alan Kandel

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