EDF Health

Sensors and electronic health records reveal block-by-block traffic air pollution health disparities among the elderly in Oakland

Dr. Ananya Roy is a Health Scientist

Many public heath efforts, thankfully, focus on the youngest among us. We fight for a clean environment and healthy future for our kids. However, it is easy to forget that pollution affects us in every stage of life and its insidious health effects accumulate over time and can result in disease and disability.

Older people already have higher rates of disease and are highly vulnerable to air pollution, because they have been breathing for 70, 80, or 90 years. The effects of air pollution among the elderly provide insights that help us solve problems that can benefit the whole population.

Senior citizens have become the largest and fastest-growing segment of the population. By 2030 one in five Americans will be 65 and older, a demographic shift that influences everything from consumer behavior to health-care costs. Further, grandparents play a critical role in the success of families and the next generation – both emotionally and physically. It is estimated that for approximately 4.9 million families with children, the grandparent is the main breadwinner.

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New EPA Science Regulation: A Trojan Horse that Hurts Public Health

By Dr. Ananya Roy, Sc.D. & Dr. Elena Craft, Ph.D

Last week, embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt rushed to propose a new rule that may prevent EPA from using certain scientific studies in its decisions. He was in such a rush that he didn’t even wait for the White House Office of Management and Budget to complete its review of the proposal before releasing it. The rule was published yesterday in the Federal Register, marking the start of a 30 day public comment period.

Though touted as a measure for transparency, the proposed policy includes a carefully worded loophole[1] that would enable politically driven decisions on what science is used to support critical safety standards. It would hamper public health protections by allowing the agency’s political leadership to select studies that benefit its agenda and ignore those that don’t, opening the door to industry interests and secrecy.

Our colleague Richard Denison explained in a blog post last week how this policy might be used to decimate toxic chemicals safeguards at EPA. Here, we focus on what this deeply destructive proposal would mean for clean air and health.

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Scott Pruitt seeks to cook the books on EPA risk assessment science

Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt unveiled his “secret science” initiative yesterday at a press conference to which no press were invited.  While EPA has yet to post the proposed rule or otherwise make it available to the public, it was made available by others.  The main thrust of the proposal is actually considerably different and, at least initially, more targeted, than advertised by Pruitt in recent weeks and by the House of Representatives Science Committee’s Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), who authored the secret science legislation on which Pruitt’s proposal was to be based and appeared with Pruitt yesterday.

Yesterday both men stuck to their earlier talking points about the need to make sure all information EPA relies on is reproducible and fully publicly available, and never mentioned the change in the focus of the proposal.  I suspect both of them would have been hard pressed to describe the actual main focus of the proposal, which is now this:

When promulgating significant regulatory actions, the Agency shall ensure that dose response data and models underlying pivotal regulatory science are publicly available in a manner sufficient for independent validation.  (p. 23, emphases in original)

But I am sure Dr. Nancy Beck, chemical industry toxicologist turned top political appointee in EPA’s toxics office, could in a heartbeat.

I would describe the new approach, while no less dangerous, as a laser-guided missile in comparison to the carpet-bombing approach taken by the House legislation and earlier iterations of the EPA proposal.   Read More »

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Pollution is responsible for 9 million deaths globally: Two-thirds are due to air pollution

Dr. Ananya Roy is a Health Scientist

Over the last few weeks as forest fires engulfed large areas of California, air quality in the Bay area plummeted. Doctors and pediatricians were on high alert to deal with the health impacts felt most acutely by children and the elderly. Pediatrician’s offices had phone messages that said “If you are concerned about air pollution and calling to make an appointment for your child’s asthma please dial …” and advised citizens to use face masks and air purifiers and stay indoors. News outlets compared air pollution levels there to winter days in Beijing or New Delhi where air pollution is a more consistent threat. These fires drive home the reality of the effect of pollution on health.

Time and time again pollution related news from across the country and globe have made headlines, ranging from lead and PFOAS in water Flint and Hoosick Falls, benzene in Houston, to the “Airpocalypse” in Beijing and New Delhi. Though these articles highlight the disastrous effects of pollution from major pollution and weather events, the constant and ongoing silent impact of air pollution on the lives of children and communities remains underappreciated.

GAHP, The Lancet Report

Today, the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, an initiative of The Lancet, the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP), Pure Earth, and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, with additional coordination and input from United Nations Environment, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the World Bank, and others provide the first comprehensive global analysis of the health and economic impacts from all forms of pollution (air, water, soil, occupational). My colleague Elena Craft and I were contributors to this report.

The analysis carried out through the Global Burden of Disease framework estimated that pollution across air, water, soil, and occupational exposures costs the global economy $4.6 trillion per year, approximately 6.2% of global GDP, and resulted in 9 million deaths in 2015. This is equivalent to 16% of all deaths worldwide. Three times more deaths than AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined; and fifteen times more than all wars and other forms of violence.

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Podcast: How an ongoing collaboration can inform us about the quality of the air we breathe

Unraveling the relationship between air quality and human health has been a critically important task for protecting public health. Traditional stationary air monitors have played a central role in tracking toxic air pollutants and ensuring levels remain below legal standards, but the data they generate cannot be used to create fine-scale maps of air quality over local areas.

An ongoing, multi-group project initiated by Environmental Defense Fund and Google Earth Outreach aims to fill this information gap by deploying Google Street View cars equipped with air quality monitors to amass one of the largest sets of mobile air pollution measurements ever assembled.

In this episode of our podcast, we talked with one of our project partners, Dr. Joshua Apte, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, about the first round of data collection, which took place in West Oakland, California. Dr. Apte walked us through the initial findings and shared his thoughts on what they mean for public health, as well as for local communities that may be disproportionately affected by air pollution.

 

Want more? Subscribe and listen on iTunes or Google Play, or check out Podbean to listen via desktop!

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Protecting our most TENDR: Experts Call for Reducing Children’s Exposure to Neurodevelopmental Toxicants

Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist with the Health Program.

Today, a prominent group of health care professionals, scientists, and advocates including EDF published a consensus statement highlighting the significant scientific evidence linking impacts on children’s brain development to exposures to certain toxic chemicals.

Beginning in utero, children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of toxic chemicals and exposures occurring early in development can result in lasting, later life outcomes. The TENDR (Targeting Environmental NeuroDevelopmental Risks) Consensus Statement, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, outlines troubling statistics on the high incidences of neurological disorders in children, ranging from ADHD and other behavioral disorders to reduced IQ. Some  of the exemplar chemicals featured in the statement include the PBDE flame retardants, phthalates, air pollution, and lead—all harmful chemicals that EDF has blogged about and been working to address through policy improvements, better exposure monitoring tools, and market action.

A number of factors contribute to neurological disorders, but exposure to neurodevelopmental toxicants is preventable. The TENDR statement calls on government, the business community, and health professionals to all redouble efforts to reduce children’s exposures to neurodevelopmental toxicants. We applaud the broad set of individuals and organizations that came together to develop and support the TENDR consensus statement, and hope that it will catalyze actions to protect children from chemicals that adversely impact their brain development.

 

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