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.