A University of Michigan researcher defends colleague Robert Brook against allegations of illegal human testing by attacking Steve Milloy.
Marc Peters-Golden responds to last week’s Detroit News column by Henry Payne as follows — note how Peters-Golden carefully avoids addressing ANY of the specific charges levied against Brook.
Henry Payne’s July 23rd column on the EPA’s tests on the health effects of particulate pollution seeks to alarm the public, but merely confuses (“Is the EPA committing deadly human tests? Or just bad policy?”).
It parrots views long espoused by Steve Milloy, a consultant with a long history of fighting for tobacco and oil companies and against common-sense public health measures. I would like to clarify why scientists consider the type of research criticized by Payne to be so essential, and to put to rest his concerns about its danger.
A very large body of research conducted around the world has shown that fine particulate pollution is associated with a number of serious health problems, most notably conditions affecting the respiratory and cardiovascular systems.
There is little debate among scientists about these risks, but what is not well understood is how particles lead to these outcomes. By measuring short-term changes in biological markers in exposed subjects, research such as that conducted by Dr. Brook helps scientists understand the sequence of bodily events that can — in the long term — lead to adverse health effects. This type of information can only be obtained in controlled research settings where other variables, such as weather conditions and other pollutants, are eliminated.
Importantly, this valuable information can be obtained without jeopardizing subjects’ health, since the level of particulate matter administered in these experiments is no greater than what would be inhaled on a smoggy day in any number of big cities. An underlying tenet of such research is that it must be reviewed and approved by institutional review boards charged with ensuring the safety of subjects.
Research such as this is vital for helping guide public health policy. Columns such as Payne’s are a disservice not only to the truth but also to the public’s well being.
Marc Peters-Golden, professor, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, University of Michigan Medical School