By LORRAINE BAILEY
Courthouse News Service, September 26, 2012
(CN) - U.S. regulations on fine particulates rely on the illegal and inhumane testing of diesel fumes on human subjects, a think tank claims in federal court.
Fine particulate pollution, or PM2.5, describes particulate matter no larger than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, making it one-thirtieth the diameter of a human hair, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Though the EPA says that PM2.5 "can kill people shortly after exposure," it has been testing the effects of these particles on human subjects, according to a complaint filed by the American Tradition Institute Environmental Law Center in Alexandria, Va.
"EPA is seeking human subjects suffering from mutations of the gene GSTM1, glutathione-S-transferase, and thus 'more susceptible to the effects of air pollutants,' for the express purpose of exposing them to excessive levels of PM2.5 in a study they have titled 'Captain,'" according to the complaint.
The complaint links to a list of EPA studies compiled by volunteer recruiter Westat. Captain still appears as a study on epastudies.org, when Courthouse News visited the site Wednesday morning.
American Tradition Institute says that the EPA has conducted other studies involving PM2.5 in 2004, 2007 and 2008, and plans to run more, despite having found "that there is no safe level of PM2.5."
In September 2011, "EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson testified to Congress that of all deaths occurring in the United States, 1 in 4 'is attributable to PM2.5,'" the complaint says.
EPA scientists allegedly "exposed human subjects to PM2.5 from diesel truck exhausts to levels 32 times the mean exposure in Durham, North Carolina, 90 times the average environmental exposure of the general population levels and 135 times the mean diesel truck emissions exposure in the United States, increasing the risk of their immediate death by 10 percent," the complaint states.
The institute says one of its members, Landon Huffman, previously participated in an EPA experiment on PM2.5.
"He was led to believe that the benefit of the experiment with asthma, something from which he suffers," the complaint states. "He was not informed that the pollution EPA was forcing into his lungs could actually cause him to have an asthma attack. ... Since learning that the EPA considers the gases to which he was exposed were lethal, he has been distraught and experienced emotional distress, such as a fear of becoming ill or dying."
"In experiments conducted by EPA employees and approved by an EPA contractor serving as an Institutional Review Board, EPA has unethically, immorally, repeatedly and ultimately illegally exposed human subject to PM2.5, a pollutant EPA states is lethal and can cause death within hours of exposure without informing the human subjects of this fact," the complaint states.
The group seeks to halt the "EPA's human experimentation which intentionally exposes human subjects, including some 'more susceptible to the effects of air pollutants' to 'fine particles' such as those 'produced by car and coal-fired power plants,' that EPA and its administrator have described as 'lethal' and for which EPA has concluded there is no exposure level 'below which there is no risk at all.'"
In addition to the injunction against future testing, the group also says that the EPA should abandon tainted data.
"To repair ethical lapses and as a matter of equitable relief, plaintiffs ask the court to stay implementation of any rules authorized under the Clean Air Act to control fine particulate matter until such time as the agency can review the regulatory basis it used in their promulgation, amend its support documents and otherwise reevaluate the risks from the fine particulate matter to ensure EPA does not rely in any fashion upon illegal human experimentation," the complaint states.
The American Tradition Institute is represented by the director of its environmental law clinic, David Schnare.
In the complaint, Schnare says he is one of many members of the institute who fights inhumane human testing because of a personal connection to the medical experimentation in Nazi concentration camps.
Schnare says he was named after a relative who died in Buchenwald concentration camp, where 729 inmates were used as test subjects to determine the lethal dose of a poison. He allegedly quit a job at the EPA after 33 years of service because of the agency's conduct.