After accumulating evidence via the Freedom of Information Act that showed the Environmental Protection Agency conducted disturbing experiments that exposed humans to inhalable particulates the agency has said are deadly, sound science advocate Steven Milloy has sued the federal government.
The trials, which were carried out at EPA’s Human Studies Facility at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, exposed subjects to fine particulate matter (called “PM2.5”) at extremely elevated levels for up to two hours at a time. EPA’s Web site on particulate matter and its 2009 “Summary of PM2.5 Risk Estimates,” stated, “an examination of cause-specific risk estimates found that PM2.5 risk estimates for cardiovascular deaths are similar to those for all-cause deaths….” Also, in July 2011 EPA stated in the Federal Register announcement of its Cross-State Air Pollution Rule that “a recent EPA analysis estimated that 2005 levels of PM2.5 and ozone were responsible for between 130,000 and 320,000 PM2.5-related and 4,700 ozone-related premature deaths….”
And to cap it all, last September EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, “Particulate matter causes death. It doesn’t make you sick. It’s directly causal to dying sooner than you should.”
But in descriptions more tangible than statistical, the experiments conducted by EPA’s North Carolina doctors sound like something out of World War II-era Germany.
“EPA obtained their PM2.5 from a diesel truck,” explained Dr. David Schnare, a former EPA litigator who is now director of American Tradition Institute’s Environmental Law Center, which filed the lawsuit in Virginia. “It is difficult to overstate the atrocity of this research.
“EPA parked a truck’s exhaust pipe directly beneath an intake pipe on the side of a building. The exhaust was sucked into the pipe, mixed with some additional air and then piped directly into the lungs of the human subjects. EPA actually has pictures of this gas chamber, a clear plastic pipe stuck into the mouth of a subject, his lips sealing it to his face, diesel fumes inhaled straight into his lungs.”
Among other things, the lawsuit demands that:
“In the context of rules established after scientific horrors of World War II and the Tuskegee syphilis experiments,” Milloy said in a press release announcing the lawsuit, “the notion that EPA would pipe high levels of PM2.5 and diesel exhaust into the lungs of unhealthy people to see what would happen is simply appalling.”
In June Milloy filed a complaint with the North Carolina Medical Board that accused three doctors in the state – two employed by EPA (Dr. Andrew Ghio and Dr. Wayne Cascio) and one by the University of North Carolina (Dr. Eugene Chung) – of intentionally exposing test subjects to PM2.5. In his letter he outlined the details of EPA’s outrageous activities to the board’s president.
“During these experiments,” Milloy wrote, “the study subjects were intentionally exposed to airborne fine particulate matter (“PM2.5”) at levels ranging from 41.54 micrograms per cubic meter to 750.83 micrograms per cubic meter for periods of up to two hours.”
Milloy alleged the three doctors violated EPA standards of conduct in human research as well as the Hippocratic Oath. Based upon information he obtained via FOIA, Milloy learned that experiments were conducted on 41 subjects. Of those, one experienced atrial fibrillation – a 58-year-old obese woman with a history of health problems and family history of heart disease – and another developed an elevated heart rate. Both returned to normal breathing and heartbeat function within two hours, according to an EPA report.
Among the requirements established by EPA, researchers must minimize risk to subjects and risks must be reasonable compared to anticipated benefits. Since EPA has already determined that PM2.5 is lethal and can cause death within hours of breathing it from the diesel truck’s exhaust pipe, no apparent benefit could have been derived from the research. Test subjects must be fully informed of the risks involved, and studies with “risk of substantial injury to a human subject” are not to be approved except in extremely rare cases that are approved by higher agency authorities. Milloy – who received 3,500 pages of documents responsive to his FOIA request – alleges the test subjects were never told that their health, or lives, were imperiled.
Milloy, who publishes the Web site Junkscience.com, has created a special Internet site for the case called EPAHumanTesting.com. The site archives extensive details, which include historical context about the legal and proper conduct of scientific experiments on human beings, in addition to copies of the documents he received and correspondence with government officials about the case.
“That EPA administrator Lisa Jackson permitted this heinous experimentation to occur under her watch shocks the conscience,” said Milloy.
Paul Chesser is an associate fellow for the National Legal and Policy Center and publishes CarolinaPlottHound.com, an aggregator of North Carolina news. He was also director of communications last year, and a senior fellow for part of this year, for the American Tradition Institute, which filed the lawsuit representing Steve Milloy.