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OnAir: EPA & Auto Industry Partnership Fills Need for Trusted Science

2010 April 20

The Health Effects Institute (HEI) is one of the most respected research organizations in air pollution science.

The Institute was founded in 1980 through an unprecedented partnership between the EPA and the automotive industry. With equal funding from agency and industry (by market share), HEI is in a unique position to provide “high-quality, impartial, and relevant science,” on air pollution health effects, according to their website.

blog_HEI_20100406“HEI began because there was a need for independent science that could be trusted by everyone,” said Dan Greenbaum, HEI’s president.

“What we find is that with industry, EPA, and environmentalists at the table, they are really asking the same scientific questions…even though they may not always want the same answers.”

To maintain objectivity, HEI’s review committees are staffed by participants who are not involved in any advocacy for industry or the environment. The Institute also avoids making regulatory recommendations.
“We don’t make policy here,” Greenbaum said. “We deliver relevant science to the doorsteps of decision-makers so they can do their jobs.”

Greenbaum is known for communicating well across business, environmental, and political realms. He has applied this savvy at the helm of HEI and steered the Institute toward the highest standards of scientific integrity.

“The scientific review process can be a little intense,” Greenbaum admitted, “but it’s so important to have research that is above and beyond reproach.”

Because of the integrity of HEI’s research, their data is often used in important decision-making processes.
In 1997, for example, the EPA reviewed national standards for PM and ozone. To ensure the review incorporated the best-possible information, HEI was asked to reanalyze large datasets from two major air pollution studies.

“They trusted us to treat the data well,” Greenbaum said, “and after tearing it apart and putting it back together again, we confirmed the results and found higher effects of air pollution in people with lower socioeconomic status.”

HEI continues to push the research envelope. Through a new committee, HEI is identifying needed research on the potential health consequences of new fuels and engine technologies.

“We are forecasting a range of new technologies and looking to see whether they could have unintended consequences for public health,” Greenbaum said.

“This is a great example of research to fill gaps in understanding. The key thing we do is listen to what information people need and then do the research to get it.”

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About the Author: Becky Fried is a science writer with EPA’s National Center for Environmental Research. Her OnAir posts are a regular “Science Wednesday” feature.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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2 Responses leave one →
  1. armansyahardanis permalink
    April 20, 2010

    In my country, the lowers class only be able a motorcycle, not car, but they are majority. If the urban city authorities do not control its emission, and until now isn’t that, and also they do not research, probably its can make public health effects…..

  2. Anonymous permalink
    April 25, 2010

    HEI sounds like one of the best research programs out there. And since it is none-biassed, no one can say the research results were bought. We do need to look at emissions from new fuel types, so I’m glad that HEI is doing that. I think you can call something clean diesel or a cleaner gasoline blend, but it still will continue to create pollution and won’t eliminate diesel particulates. I hope HEI will compare these new blends with real new fuels like hydrogen and all-electric powered vehicles. The hydrogen could be produced by solar power. The all-electric vehicles could be real clean or be dirty depending on the source of the electric generating to recharge the batteries. If solar power is used, all-electric powered vehicles could be as clean as hydrogen vehicles. If traditional power plants are used, then all-electric powered vehicles may not clean the air that much because of the pollution generated by the power plants. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

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