Press Releases & Bulletins

DATE: December 14, 2001

Polluters may get new lethal loopholes
while public distracted by terrorism and war.

(Washington, D.C. December 14, 2001) - Exposure to particle soot could harm children's lungs as much as "active" smoking, according to air pollution researchers.

The researchers, from the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, also found that changes in air pollution exposure during adolescence has a "measurable and potentially important effect on lung function growth and performance."

These dramatic new findings "underscore concerns about a polluter-inspired plan to weaken enforcement and pollution control requirements for refineries, factories and electric power plants," said , executive director of the nonprofit Clean Air Trust.

O'Donnell explained that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is reportedly preparing to allow industry to increase pollution when expanding or making "major modifications" to industrial plants.

"Under pressure from industry, the Department of Energy and Vice President Cheney, EPA is reportedly preparing to announce gaping new loopholes -- loopholes that will allow industry to increase pollution and cause more health damage to children and others," said O'Donnell.

"These new lethal loopholes are being prepared while the public and media are distracted by the war on terrorism," O'Donnell added.

O'Donnell said the new research is "especially significant" in light of the pending EPA action. "It suggests that EPA could, in effect, be turning some children into smokers against their will."

The researchers studied 110 California children who had moved from communities participating in a study of respiratory health. They sought to determine if the children's lungs were affected by the move.

They found that children who moved to communities with cleaner air showed improved growth in lung function. Those who moved to communities with dirtier air had reduced growth in lung function. The researchers warned that reduced lung function during "teen years of [lung] development" could translate into respiratory problems later in life.

The researchers compared their findings to earlier research that had found reduced lung function among children who smoked. Their findings showed that "ambient air pollution exposure has a similar magnitude of effect on lung function development to that previously observed for children who are active smokers."

The research appears in the current issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, published by the American Thoracic Society. The study is available here as a PDF file. To read it you must have Adobe's Acrobat Reader installed on your computer. That is available as a free download. If you have Acrobat, go ahead and download the study, which is a 98kb file.

As always, please don't hesitate to call (202) 785-9625 if you'd like to discuss these or related issues.