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Clearing the Air

2012 May 3

By Wayne Cascio, MD

Stethoscope and EKG. There have been some recent allegations about EPA’s critical scientific research into how air pollution might contribute to abnormal heart rhythms. It is especially important during Air Quality Awareness Month to clear the air with the facts about our research efforts on behalf of the American people.

EPA’s research into the health impacts of air pollution has helped to build healthier communities, provide new technology and develop new solutions to protect and manage air quality.  In the case of research into fine particle pollution, more than 50 clinical studies over the past decade involving human volunteers have been published by scientists from EPA, many U.S. universities and medical centers that describe cardiac effects in humans exposed to this harmful pollution.

As an Agency dedicated to the protection of human health (and as a doctor myself), the Agency takes its responsibilities working with volunteers very, very seriously.

EPA follows the Common Rule which requires the ethical review and oversight of human research by an independent institutional review board (IRB) to ensure that any risks to study volunteers are minimized and justified.  EPA follows strict human safety protocols for all of its studies, and these protocols are reviewed and approved by an IRB before any human study is conducted.  Precautions are taken throughout the volunteer’s participation to ensure his or her safety.

In the case of EPA’s research on particle pollution, scientists studied biological changes that carry no or minimal risk while providing evidence for the reasons that particle pollution can lead to serious health problems.

EPA’s health based standards for fine particulate matter protect the public from serious health problems, which can include aggravated asthma, increased hospital admissions, heart attacks and premature death.  Individuals who are more sensitive to fine particle exposure include people with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children.

In the U.S. a heart attack occurs every 34 seconds and more than 2,200 people die of cardiovascular disease each day.  It is estimated that tens of thousands of premature deaths and non-fatal heart attacks are triggered by air pollution—emphasizing the importance of research in this field.

The health scientists and staff at EPA are privileged to provide safe, ethical, unbiased, and state-of-the-art inhalation science in support of the Clean Air Act as we work to define and understand the risks of air pollution to the American people.

About the Author: Dr. Wayne E. Cascio, is the Director of EPA’s Environmental Public Health Division, a Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of North Carolina, and a cardiologist.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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3 Responses leave one →
  1. Arman.- permalink
    May 4, 2012

    Clearing the Air : The Future Cities.-

    Urban cities in the world have made the problem of Environmental and Public Health. No planned for the older cities that just only made the money, without prepared the impacts of its aim. We must build the Future Cities that Green attentively…..

  2. May 4, 2012

    The Good Force be with you!

    We can clear the air by eliminating those undesirable pollutants that contribute to the destruction of our ecology by destroying those who are destroying the earth.

    Live forever and prosper!

  3. May 7, 2012

    It’s the topic of the day. The fact is that the fine particle pollution changes the magnetic field inside man’s body too. This breaks normal physical work of organism including the heart.

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