EPA-funded University of Rochester researchers test deadly air pollutant on diabetics

You’d think a guy with the name like “Günter Oberdörster” would avoid illegal human experiments like the plague.

Günter Oberdörster (Photo credit: University of Rochester web site)
Günter Oberdörster (Photo credit: University of Rochester web site)

Newly obtained documents show that the EPA-funded University of Rochester PM Center has been testing high levels of deadly ultrafine particulate matter (UFP) on diabetics. Below is a description of the study from a “progress report” buried on the EPA web site:

… We have completed our study of the effects of inhalation of ultrafine carbon particles in subjects with diabetes. Diabetics have vascular endothelial dysfunction which may increase their risk for adverse cardiovascular effects from airborne particles. Type 2 diabetics, age 30-60, without clinical cardiovascular disease and not on “statin” medications, were exposed to filtered air or 50 μg/m3 carbon UFP (count median diameter ~30 nm, GSD 1.8) by mouthpiece for two hours, in a randomized double-blind cross-over study. Exposures were separated by at least two weeks. Nineteen subjects completed the study…

Keep in mind that just last Friday, the EPA tightened outdoor air standards for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) to 12 micrograms per cubic meter. But in the University of Rochester study, the diabetic victims were exposed to 50 micrograms of UFP per cubic meter for two hours. UFP is thought to be more dangerous than PM2.5 — which EPA has already determined can cause sudden death. According to another UFP study at the University of Rochester:

… Epidemiological studies have consistently found an association between small increases in urban particulates and health effects, including increased morbidity and mortality in people with respiratory and cardiac disease. The observed effects are associated with the fine rather than the coarse particles in the atmosphere. Moreover, animal studies have shown that ultrafine particles have a significantly greater pulmonary inflammatory potency than larger submicronic particles. A recent epidemiological study found that particle number – reflecting ambient ultrafine particles – correlated better than fine particle mass with increased symptoms in asthmatics. These results form the basis for the ultrafine particle hypothesis…

By risking the lives and health of already-unhealthy humans subjects in non-therapeutic experiments of dubious scientific merit, this research clearly violates federal regulations promulgated to protect human subjects as well as the Nuremberg Code — way to go Günter! (Oberdörster is the director of the University of Rochester’s PM Center.)

11 thoughts on “EPA-funded University of Rochester researchers test deadly air pollutant on diabetics”

  1. Actually, I did not assume that it was a public health issue. I mistakenly assumed that it was a science issue. I should never assume that anything EPA does has anything to do with science.

  2. It no longer matters whether the EPA claim is well-founded or spurious. They have made it, and then they proceeded to violate medical ethics with it. Quibbling over the initial claim just defines exactly WHICH list of felonies they should be charged with.

  3. Seems to me they ought to be charged with attempted murder. After all, they’ve already declared that the amount put in the subjects is dangerous. I would also think that when the subjects die then the charge can be upgraded to murder one. There clearly can be no defense of this. Can I sponsor a game of Russian Roulette, even if I advise everyone of the dangers involved and have them sign releases? Would that absolve me of all responsibilities for adverse consequences?

    I suppose the other alternative is that they lied about the dangers and the new regs are unnecessary.

  4. “Nineteen subjects completed the study…”
    How many subjects did NOT complete ‘the study’? Why not?
    Inquiring minds want to know! So do liability lawyers!
    @Snorbert Zangox: Do not assume this is a public ‘health’ issue. For the EPA this is a *control* issue. “The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.– Robert A. Heinlein

  5. I am having some trouble understanding how EPA et al. claim that particle of such small sizes can cause problems.

    My first problem is that submicron particles are extremely difficult to remove from airstreams. The 30 nm particles that this researcher used are reputed to be the most difficult of all sizes to capture. Larger particles have enough mass to be removed by impaction, smaller particles are subjected to Brownian motion which causes them to impact on surfaces in small cavities. 30 nm particles are not large enough to separate by inertia, but too large to move far in response to molecular impacts. I have always thought that the lung’s capture efficiency of small particles would be low.

    Second, because they are small, such particles should be easily removed by the phlegm secreted and ejected by our lungs and bronchial tubes. Asbestos is a special case because the long thin fibers act like little arrows which stick into the tissue and do not move with the phlegm.

    I looks like he is exposing subjects to particle concentrations in the range of 20,000 to 40,000 particles per cm3 (its hard to read the fine print in the figure), and that indoor air and the air in cars is in the range of 1,500 to 17,500 particles per cm3. I do not see that he measured the concentration of particles in his “filtered” air. However, his exposures appear to be near to the concentrations that we experience daily, so I have some difficulty with his putative findings of major differences among subjects.

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