‘Extremely Conservative Estimate’ Shows 80,000 U.S. Deaths Per Decade Due to EPA Rollbacks
Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency is trying to push back on an opinion piece in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that says at least 80,000 Americans per decade will die because of the agency’s proposed regulatory rollbacks.
The “extremely conservative estimate” from public health economist David Cutler and biostatistician Francesca Dominici, and the angry debate that has followed, underscore the frayed state of American science in the age of Trump, Bloomberg reports.
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“A central feature of [Trump’s] agenda is environmental damage: making the air dirtier and exposing people to more toxic chemicals,” Cutler and Dominici wrote in their review of eight EPA regulatory rollbacks that are either proposed or in process, including Obama-era clean air, water, and chemical standards. “The beneficiaries, in contrast, will be a relatively few well-connected companies.”
Noting that the JAMA piece was not peer-reviewed, the EPA “dismissed the essay as rhetoric, not research,” claiming without substantiation that “the science” clearly shows that under Trump, “greenhouse gas emissions are down, Superfund sites are being cleaned up at a higher rate than under President Obama, and the federal government is investing more money to improve water infrastructure than ever before.”
But “the agency did not respond to questions asking for additional supporting context for these assertions,” Bloomberg notes, and “in April, the EPA released data showing a decline in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from the previous years. The data ended in 2016, before the start of the current administration.”
Defending the JAMA op ed, Cutler told Bloomberg the data he and Dominici examined “are based on the EPA’s own science”. So “if they don’t like what their scientists say, they should provide scientific reasons for thinking so.”
Attackers lining up against the report include Tony Cox, president of a Denver-based applied research firm that specializes in health, safety, and environmental risk—who was also appointed by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to sit on the agency’s Science Advisory Board and to chair its Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, Bloomberg notes. Insisting that he “was speaking not for the agency, but on his own behalf,” Cox told Bloomberg the JAMA essay “presents highly speculative estimates of health impacts that reflect guesswork and assumptions of unknown validity, not facts implied by available data.”
But “C. Arden Pope, a Brigham Young University economist who has worked on some of the most influential air pollution studies of the last 25 years, called the essay excellent and vouched for both ‘extremely knowledgeable’ authors,” the business news agency adds.
Pope specifically praised Dominici, with whom he has collaborated in the past, for her “‘healthy understanding of the complexities’ of making scientific data sets as transparent as possible,” Bloomberg adds.