20 Years Ago: 5-1-93 — EPA claims gasoline air toxics cause 720 cancer deaths per year

But the most recent EPA document on the topic admits the agency is unable to figure out the benefits (i.e., cancer deaths prevented) of reduced gasoline air toxics (i.e., benzene, 1,3-butadiene, formaldehyde, acetylaldehyde, acrolein and naphthalene). Most likely because there aren’t any.

The news article is below.

Click for EPA’s 2007 document “Control of Hazardous Air Pollutants from Mobile Sources: Final Rule to Reduce Mobile Source Air Toxics.”


Associated Press, May 1, 1993

WASHINGTON (AP) – Cancer-causing emissions from cars are decreasing because of smog regulations, but are likely to increase in the next century as the number of cars grows, the Environmental Protection Agency said.

An EPA study released Friday found that cars account for half the cancer deaths caused by toxic air pollution. Most of the rest of the air toxins come from factories.

In 1990, there were an estimated 720 cancer deaths nationwide caused by carcinogenic gasoline components escaping from autos, including benzene, formaldehyde and butadiene, said Dick Wilson, director of mobile sources for the EPA.

The agency projects the number will decrease by nearly half, to 370, by 2000, but then deaths are expected to begin climbing, reaching 390 by 2010.

The toxics already are decreasing as a byproduct of regulations to curtail carbon dioxide, or smog, emissions from cars. Carbon dioxide can cause respiratory illnesses but is not considered carcinogenic, Wilson said.

13 thoughts on “20 Years Ago: 5-1-93 — EPA claims gasoline air toxics cause 720 cancer deaths per year”

  1. Carbon dioxide can cause respiratory illnesses? We’d better stop people exhaling then so they don’t make themselves ill.

    I’m totally astounded that ANY organisation, let alone one that is supposed to be a resposible Govt one, could come up with such complete and arrant garbage.

  2. Good ideas never die! The UK had an “investigative” TV program last evening, repeating a government department claim that “26,000 deaths a year are caused by air pollution”

    As Petrossa says, I would love to see the death certificates – “Cause of Death, Air Pollution”.

  3. It also was about 20 years ago that Tim Oppelt, director and Clyde Dial, deputy director of the EPA Health Effects Research Laboratory (Cincinnati) wrote an article in the Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association, in which they ranked all air pollution emission sources in decreasing order of the number of cancer caused per year. They used existing EPA exposure estimates and carcinogenicity potency data to calculate the total number of excess cancers in the US per year. Note that they were talking about increased cancers, which is very different from cancer deaths.

    Their ranking had automobile exhaust ranked first at about 950 cancers per year. Second was gasoline marketing at about 150 cancers per year. This one was because of the extra benzene that refiners used to replace the octane-enhancing properties of lead. The total of all sources was somewhere around 1300 excess cancers per year. Of particular note to me was that hazardous waste incineration ranked about 50th, right behind pharmaceutical manufacture, at 0.4 excess cancers per year in a population of about 300 million.

    Their article made no claims that the estimates were accurate, only that they had used existing EPA techniques to prepare the list.

  4. Given that cancer causes around 500,000 deaths per year in the US, it’s hard to give credence to an estimate of 1,300 excess deaths directly attributable to these carcinogens. It requires working very far to the right of the decimal point on data that do not support that level of precision.
    Which is not to say that the identified pollutants are good for anyone. If they can be removed at low cost, it would be desirable to remove them. But their identified role in cancer deaths — even if it’s accurate — justifies only a low-cost approach to removing them. Transportation provides a lot of value, saving many lives and improving quality of life for all with goods and services.
    In fact, one could make a case that rapid, safe ambulance transport saves more lives than the claimed cancer deaths. But that might also put you right of the decimal place.

  5. It’s the old trick of using numbers to imply precision.

    I remember the endless arguments over whether 2000 was in the 20th century, or the 21st century. What was never discussed was that the precision implied by “the year 2000” was totally bogus. The use of A.D. year numbers was devised in AD 525. The first coin bearing an AD date was in AD1234.

    BTW . . . 2000 was in the 21st century. When your wife turns 40, is she still in her 30s?

  6. No, because humans have a year zero. The calendar, by definition, does not because it is a count. Since the calendar starts on the first day of January in the first year of our Lord (AD = Annum Domini = Latin is just better). On the other hand, your child’s first year alive ends when they turn 1. When you are 1, it is your second year alive.

  7. Which means that the year nineteen ninety 10 began on Jan. 1, 2000 and that the 20th century ended at midnight on Dec. 31, 2001.

  8. Howdy Gamecock and SZ
    According to Marilyn vos Savant and some other mathematicians, the 20th C ended on Dec 31, 2000. However, those were the smallest parties of the millenium. The rest of us shot the fireworks on Dec 31, 1999, because it’s all about the round numbers anyway.
    If we had eight fingers instead of ten, this would have happened quite a while earlier.

  9. But wife years still don’t work like that. When your wife’s birth certificate reads 40, she’s still 29.

    Aside from that, you’re also wrong on how to count by 1000’s. 🙂

  10. Patently false. Humans have no year zero. There is a 1 B.C., and a 1 A.D., but no zero.

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