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E-M:/ Physicians on EPA Changes to Air Standards Review Process



Title: Physicians on EPA Changes to Air Standards Review Proc
This is from Physicians for Social Responsibility on EPA's proposed air standards changes, with implications for Michigan lungs.



EPA Announces Dangerous Changes to the

Air Standards Review Process
On December 7, 2006, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it would be changing the way the agency reviews and updates regulations for the nation's worst air pollutants. The changes, many of which strongly resemble reforms sought by the American Petroleum Institute and Battery Council International, would erode the scientific integrity of the standards review process and jeopardize public health.
Under the Clean Air Act, EPA is required to review the National Ambient Air Quality Standards every five years for six major (or "criteria") air pollutants -- ozone, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides and lead. For the past 30 years, the agency has followed the advice of its staff scientists and independent experts when setting these standards, which are designed to protect healthy individuals and the most vulnerable populations -- including children, the elderly and people suffering from lung and cardiovascular diseases. However, last September, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson rejected the consensus recommendations of both outside scientists and his own staff scientists calling for much stronger limits on particulate matter pollution.
Now EPA is attempting to undermine the review process, arguing that the changes will improve the efficiency with which the agency updates the NAAQS standards. While the process has been slow at times, a thorough and deliberate evaluation of all relevant science is critical in setting standards that adequately reflect our understanding of the harmful effects of air pollutants. EPA's updated review process eliminates the EPA staff paper from the process, which currently allows career agency scientists to recommend changes to the NAAQS standards without input from political appointees. Instead, the new process will have EPA officials sign off on a "policy paper" written by senior White House appointees at the agency that later will be made available for public comment. Clearly, such action is less an attempt at streamlining and more an effort to diminish the role that both EPA and independent scientists play in the review process.
EPA plans to apply the new NAAQS review process to the ongoing review of the health standard for lead air pollution. The agency is even considering an industry petition to remove lead from the list of "criteria" pollutants established under the Clean Air Act. EPA is considering such an action despite its own scientific findings released earlier this year showing harmful effects of lead even at low levels of exposure.
National air quality standards are absolutely vital to protecting public health from the harmful effects of air pollutants. Not only do they inform the public of the quality of the air in communities, but they also serve as the primary driver of efforts to improve air quality nationwide.  Dropping the health standard for lead air pollution would be inexcusable at a time when our understanding of lead's harmful effects continues to grow. PSR condemns even the consideration of such an action. PSR also recommends the public oppose EPA's recent action to undermine the NAAQS review process and asks the agency to revoke this dangerous decision.
The Environmental Health Team
Physicians for Social Responsibility