Talking Points on the Environment #31: EPA’s New Clean Air Standards Could Place Children at Greater Risk

In November 1996, the EPA proposed new, more stringent standards for particulate matter (soot) and ozone (smog), arguing that stringent air pollution standards could prevent some 250,000 cases of serious respiratory problems in children, some of them life-threatening. But instead of protecting children, the new standards could place them at increased risk.

1) Philadelphia study finds little correlation between air pollution and asthma.

According to a study conducted by David M. Lang and Marcia Palansky and summarized in the New England Journal of Medicine, the link between air quality and serious respiratory illnesses is virtually nonexistent. The study, which examined asthma death rates between 1969 and 1991, found that asthma-related deaths rose from 1.68 deaths per 100,000 in population in 1969 to 2.41 per 100,000 in 1991. This rise occurred at the very time concentrations of major air pollutants were in decline in the city. The study also found that death from asthma was more common in census tracts in which greater proportions of residents were black, Hispanic and female — population groups more likely to be impoverished. Since the new air regulations could cost an estimated 200,000 jobs, more Americans are likely to be impoverished and thus at greater risk of serious respiratory illness.

2) Clinton Administration’s own Department of Health and Human Services questions health benefits of stricter standards.

According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), a research arm of the Department of Health and Human Services, “the distribution of asthma in other countries fails to implicate pollution as an aggravating factor. Some of the highest asthma mortality rates occur in Australia and New Zealand, which have excellent air quality.”

3) New York study concludes pollution accounts for less than 1% of all asthma hospital admissions.

Of the 14,700 asthma hospital emissions in New York City each year, just 90 — or .6% — are attributable to air quality problems. In other words, 99.4% of all such admissions would be unaffected by the EPA’s new air quality standards.

4) Independent study concludes that more people could die than be saved by new, stricter standards.

Even by the EPA’s optimistic projections, more stringent air standards could save just 15,000 per year. But according to a study conducted by the Reason Public Policy Institute, the new standards could cost up to 27,000 American lives each year by creating economic hardship — a net loss of up to 12,000 lives.


Information from: commentary by Matthew Kibbe in The Washington Times, 2/19/97; and The National Center for Public Policy Research’s National Policy Analysis paper #164

Issue Date: July 1997

Talking Points on the Economy: Environment #31, published by The National Center for Public Policy Research

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