New health research 'vindicates' EPA; soot particles are deadly, Lung Association notes

provided by American Lung Association

ew research confirms a controversial finding that linked soot par- ticles to premature death and increased hospitalizations, the American Lung Association noted today. The Lung Association said the new research gives substantial additional scientific backing to a 1997 decision by the Environmental Protection Agency to set tougher clean-air standards for soot particles. The Lung Association said the research underscores the need for EPA to clean up sources of fine particle soot, including diesel trucks, other big diesel engines, diesel fuel and coal-fired power plants.

"This research vindicates EPA," said Ernest P. Franck, President of the Lung Association. "It should silence the big polluters and other critics who have asserted falsely that EPA relied on 'junk science' to set the health standards."

The standards in question have been set aside by a federal appeals court panel for reasons unrelated to the science. The Justice Department and the American Lung Association are appealing the case to the US Supreme Court.

The new research was unveiled last month at a conference in Atlanta sponsored by the Health Effects Institute (HEI), a nonprofit research center funded jointly by industry and the EPA. In one study, researchers reanalyzed and validated two earlier, key studies done by the Harvard School of Public Health and used by the EPA to support the particle soot standards. Both the 1993 "Six Cities Study" and the 1995 "American Cancer Society Study" found a link between particle soot and premature death. As particle pollution increased, so did deaths.

Big polluting industries and their supporters have attacked the original studies because the researchers declined to turn confidential health information and other raw data over to industry lawyers. Under a compromise negotiated by EPA, the material was given to the HEI to review.

HEI also released another new study that found increases in premature death and hospitalizations linked to higher levels of soot particles. This research, led by investigators from John Hopkins University's School of Hygiene and Public Health, examined the pollution impacts in the 90 largest American cities.

Another analysis in fourteen cities found increasing hospitalizations for cardiovascular and lung diseases linked to higher levels of particle pollution. The researchers concluded: "These complementary analyses of mortality and morbidity provide new and strong evidence linking particulate air pollution at current levels to adverse health effects," according to an abstract of their study.

"The Health Effects Institute's independent researchers have concluded that fine particulate matter does pose a public health threat and that's what EPA concluded," said Franck.

"This research is the most sophisticated of its kind," said the Lung Association's Franck. "Collectively, the implications of these studies are inescapable," he said. "EPA did use sound science in setting the national air quality standards. Now the agency must move ahead with controls on the biggest sources of fine particle soot, including diesel trucks and fuel, other large diesel engines and coal-fired power plants."

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