EPA shows us a body?

A new EPA study picks up JunkScience.com’s “Show us the bodies” gauntlet. Who wins the clash? You decide.

EPA researchers report in Environmental Health Perspectives a case study from which they conclude:

Exposure to air pollution including particulate matter may cause supraventricular arrhythmias.

Here’s the case. A volunteer 58-year old 5’8″, 230 lb. woman, with a personal medical history of stage 1 hypertension, pre-mature atrial contractions, osteoarthritis, gall bladder removal, knee replacement and hernia repair, and a family history of heart disease (her father had a fatal heart attack at age 57), was exposed in an EPA laboratory to concentrated ambient air particles. After 23 minutes of exposure to air with a particulate matter concentration of 112 micrograms/cubic meter (μg/m3), the study subject experienced an atrial fibrillation that lasted until 2-3 hours after the exposure was initiated.

The woman’s exposure to particulate matter is 3.2 times higher than the EPA’s daily fine particulate matter limit of 35 μg/m3 — a limit that was only surpassed roughly 0.33% of the time in the U.S. from 2007 to 2009. The 112 μg/m3 experimental exposure itself was only exceeded once in the U.S. during 2007-2009 (i.e., for a few days during 2008 in Chippewa County, Michigan).

So what we have here is a pre-disposed-to-atrial-fibrillation study subject exposed to far more particulate matter than virtually ever exists in ambient air. She experienced a transitory medical event (one that affects 1% to 2% of the general population, and 10% of the population by 80 years of age, and one that many have many causes) during the experiment.

It’s also worth asking whether this is the only study subject that the EPA has studied. Are there others? What were their results? Do we only get to hear about the one result that could possibly be twisted to fit the EPA agenda?

This anecdote — and that is a charitable description of it — in no way supports the notion that ambient air quality in the U.S. is harming anyone.

Click here for the EPA case report.

17 thoughts on “EPA shows us a body?”

  1. The challenge “show us a body” alone doesn’t guarantee a win. To speak out loud such a challenge, provokes the manufacture of fake bodies.

  2. Application of the usual linear model applied to exposure/risk scenarios would suggest that this unhealthy subject’s reaction to dusty air reveals a risk of even more serious health consequences to the more seriously unhealthy. Zombies beware!

  3. Major points:
    -There are two components of PM, soot and dust, with huge variation within these categories. Do they have different effects? The irritant effects are based on shape and size while the chemical effects are based on composition. This could be an especially problematic or especially non-problematic type of dust. No analysis of the particles were given, and given that this was in a medical setting with (what I assume are) high-quality HEPA air filters on the ventilation system, it is likely that this “ambient air” particle distribution was highly biased towards microfine particles such as PM2.5. In reality, super-high PM concentrations tend to be >80% larger particles such as smoke or dust from agriculture or construction.
    -This concentration is massively above legal limits. Do we encounter a no-effects threshold somewhere? Even if we didn’t hit a threshold, we need a lot more data to determine the shape of the distrubution (if the effects are exponential related to concentration, it is nothing, but we might have something if it logarithmic).
    -This wasn’t blinded. At all.
    -One run of one person. Can’t they go recruiting at a nursing home?
    – What was she doing during this time frame, reading? How do they know her heart flutter wasn’t caused by a particular point of drama in the story, frustration at the test, caused by an onset of boredom, or simply happens at random intervals? Again, this was one test run on one subject.

    The first two bullets could be excused due to the small size and inability to create greatly concentrated air of a specific type. The heavy concentration could be explained as a proof of concept. However, the last three points are outright inexcusable.

    I would give this a failing grade at an elementary school science fair. I expect employees of a government research instution to know better.

  4. Just an observation, could the test subject have known that an exposure was upcoming, grew stressful and accounted for the pre-test conditions, then when exposure was certain, had a psychological factor involved, not necessarily environmental? There is no description of how this test was blind in any way.

  5. The EPA would have better success in showing the bodies if it asks a grave robber. Have we strayed so far from the rudimentary steps of the scientific method to the politically motivated “proof” that is offered by this poor excuse for a Federal agency?

  6. jleewest

    I do not see that it matters who did the study. The fact remains that EPA, which declared such studies unethical is now preparing to use the results of this one to support its contentions. And, whoever did the study must have known that it was unethical, ’cause EPA already said so.

  7. This is too often the case. Not a scientific, validated study. It is a rigged, cherry picked story. This is what I have noticed in the MSM on a variety of subjects over the years.

  8. @ Hank — I had to snicker at your “fake but accurate” reference, not to mention your calling the political prostitute by the honorific “Dr.”.

    Anecdotal evidence is not evidence at all. Ask the political pundits (with whom I agree, by the way) who climbed all over Michele Bachmann (I’d rather climb all over Sarah Palin; in fact, I dreamed I went parasailin’ with Sarah Palin), upon her vague and uncalled-for reference to some woman who’d claimed that the PPV vaccine had made her daughter mentally retarded.

    If anecdotal evidence becomes the new “gold standard,” I have a few anecdotes I’d like to share with the EPA AND the NIEHS (key word “proctologist”)

  9. This study was done by the National Institute of Environmental and Health Science (NIEHS) which is a government entity closely affiliated with EPA but not EPA.

  10. Did EPA not reject all of the results of human exposure studies several years ago and then go back to and extrapolate their rodent study data in order to ban Dursban? Did they not say at the time that the reason for dismissing the voluntary human exposure data was that using humans in exposure studies is unethical?

    What excuse can EPA now have for exposing human subjects to a concentration of fine particles that EPA has said will damage human health?

    This is not amusing. Should someone face criminal charges for this experiment?

  11. The 112 μg/m3 experimental exposure itself was only exceeded once in the U.S. during 2007-2009 (i.e., for a few days during 2008 in Chippewa County, Michigan).

    Being a resident of Chippewa County since 1992 I feel fine. I know of no one that has a problem caused by particuates.

  12. The full paper is not yet available on the EHP website so hard to se the details. Several questions come to mind: What was the chemical makeup of the PM, where did they get it, how was it injected into the subject (exposure mode), how did they measure the concentrations, what was the chemical makeup of the dilution air, what was the size of the PM….?

  13. If it looks like BS, smells like BS, feels like BS, it must be an EPA study.

    I wonder how long she would have gone without problems if they had given her a dosage per the current EPA rules?

    If they were really scientists, they would have had more than one person (and not with one foot already in the grave) and used multiple levels of exposure to see just where the problem begins.

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