EPA chief spurns scientific advice, rejects stricter particulate controls

Yesterday, U.S. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson — rejecting the near-unanimous recommendation of his agency’s own scientific advisory council, as well as the pleas of health and environmental advocates — failed to strengthen the Clean Air Act’s standards for maximum annual soot-particle levels. Johnson did strengthen the standards for daily intake, cutting acceptable levels by almost half, but said there was “insufficient evidence” that long-term exposure causes health problems. An EPA analysis shows that following the advisers’ advice would have cut air pollution-related deaths in nine cities by 48 percent; the new rules will reduce deaths in those cities by 22 percent. That analysis is, apparently, not “sufficient.” Soot particles can penetrate deep into the lungs and circulatory system, and are implicated in tens of thousands of deaths each year from respiratory and coronary disease. Industry groups took Johnson to task — not for leaving in place lenient annual standards, mind you, but for strengthening the daily ones. After all, refraining from sickening and killing people is expensive!