The EPA insists that poor air quality in America is a terrible killer and must be regulated regardless of the economic burden imposed. But with no evidence to justify such a claim, this is nothing more than a Noble Lie.
Steve Milloy, a biostatistician and lawyer, conducted a study to examine if small particulate matter in air pollution was linked to acute deaths. Using publicly available death certificates, he found no such correlation. Furthermore, using hospital discharge data, he found no link between ozone levels and asthma attacks in the Sacramento area.
In March 2017, James Enstrom published a paper that reanalyzed the data from the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study (CPS II), which examined PM2.5 levels and their impact on all-cause mortality. This large nationwide cohort has played a major role in the EPA’s justification that fine particular matter kills thousands of Americans. However, Enstrom’s reanalysis showed the positive relationship between PM2.5 and total mortality was based on inferior data. When better data was used, the relationship vanished.
Most recently, in August 2017, Stan Young conducted a study that examined 13 years’ worth of data from the most populous air basins in California to determine mortality from small particle and ozone air pollution. Once again, there was no link between mortality and small particle or ozone pollution.
Perhaps the most damning evidence against a link between PM2.5 and deaths is the behavior of the EPA itself. If the EPA really believes that fine particulate matter is killing people, then why did it sponsor research in 2011 that exposed humans of all ages to air pollution in order to determine its effects on the body? Was the EPA really okay with hastening people’s deaths? If the EPA truly believed its own propaganda, then it was knowingly subjecting people to toxins that would shorten their lives. Logically, Milloy filed a lawsuit to stop these unethical and illegal human experiments, but the suit was dismissed due to lack of standing.
If you visit the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, PM2.5 is not listed among health problems in the U.S and it is not considered a risk factor like for cardiovascular disease like smoking, excessive alcohol, poor diet, lack of exercise, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, genetics, etc. are. On the CDC’s page for heart disease, air pollution is not listed as a risk factor. The EPA does not have access to data CDC lacks.
All of this goes to show that the EPA and its army of fanatic environmental activists have manufactured a Noble Lie: That Americans are dying from air pollution and something (that is, burdensome, anti-business regulations) must be implemented. To reach this conclusion, the EPA ignored negative evidence and advanced small associations that did not stand up to further scrutiny. In reality, the U.S. has some of the cleanest air in the world. Just check the maps published by the World Health Organization, such as this one.
Chinese people have greater longevity than Americans. If we were using EPA’s junk science methodology, we could argue that poor air quality helps people live longer.
This will not be the end of the hysteria over air quality -- since a fanatic true-believer army is already assembled -- but it may be the beginning of an effort to stop junk epidemiology from justifying dubious policies built on a foundation of Noble Lies.
This article appeared in the Fall 2017 print edition of Priorities magazine.