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EPA To Limit Science Used To Write Public Health Rules
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times: The Trump administration is preparing to significantly limit the scientific and medical research that the government can use to determine public health regulations, overriding protests from scientists and physicians who say the new rule would undermine the scientific underpinnings of government policymaking. A new draft of the Environmental Protection Agency proposal, titled Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science, would require that scientists disclose all of their raw data, including confidential medical records, before the agency could consider an academic study's conclusions. E.P.A. officials called the plan a step toward transparency and said the disclosure of raw data would allow conclusions to be verified independently.
The measure would make it more difficult to enact new clean air and water rules because many studies detailing the links between pollution and disease rely on personal health information gathered under confidentiality agreements. And, unlike a version of the proposal that surfaced in early 2018, this one could apply retroactively to public health regulations already in place. [...] [The draft] shows that the administration intends to widen its scope, not narrow it. The previous version of the regulation would have applied only to a certain type of research, "dose-response" studies in which levels of toxicity are studied in animals or humans. The new proposal would require access to the raw data for virtually every study that the E.P.A. considers. "E.P.A. is proposing a broader applicability," the new regulation states, saying that open data should not be limited to certain types of studies. Most significantly, the new proposal would apply retroactively. A separate internal E.P.A. memo viewed by The New York Times shows that the agency had considered, but ultimately rejected, an option that might have allowed foundational studies like Harvard's Six Cities study to continue to be used. Harvard's Six Cities study is a 1993 project that "definitively linked polluted air to premature deaths" and is "currently the foundation of the nation's air-quality laws," the report says.
"When gathering data for their research, known as the Six Cities study, scientists signed confidentiality agreements to track the private medical and occupational histories of more than 22,000 people in six cities. They combined that personal data with home air-quality data to study the link between chronic exposure to air pollution and mortality. But the fossil fuel industry and some Republican lawmakers have long criticized the analysis and a similar study by the American Cancer Society, saying the underlying data sets of both were never made public, preventing independent analysis of the conclusions."