EPA Diesel Exhaust Experiments on Children Discovered in California

EPA testAnother disturbing revelation of experiments on humans by the Environmental Protection Agency has been uncovered, after similar tests were exposed at EPA’s Human Studies Facility at the University of North Carolina 2 ½ years ago.

This time the “research” was conducted at the University of Southern California and the University of California at Los Angeles. The test subjects were 20 children between the ages of 10 and 15, who were exposed to up to 300 micrograms of diesel exhaust particles via nasal spray, as part of a project that ran from 2003 to 2010. The information was uncovered in documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act by the Energy & Environment Legal Institute and the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, and explained in detail at the Web site JunkScience.com.

As both organizations explained, EPA long ago made official determinations that particulate matter, such as that from diesel exhaust, is harmful and causes premature death. Further, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has concluded that there is no safe exposure to diesel exhaust. Nevertheless the researchers subjected the children to the inhalants without disclosing the dangers – indeed, those tested were told they were at “minimal risk.”

“EPA and its researchers have perverted science and morality in using children as guinea pigs in what amount to pseudoscientific experiments,” said CFACT Executive Director Craig Rucker.

EPA’s California trials are the second set of testing on human beings with diesel exhaust to be revealed in the last couple of years. In 2012 JunkScience.com discovered – also from records obtained via FOIA – that EPA conducted similar tests at its testing facility in Chapel Hill, N.C. (see photo). Those experiments placed subjects in a chamber that had an intake pipe from outside the building, where a diesel truck’s exhaust was connected. Test subjects placed their mouths over the other end of the pipe, inside the chamber, where the exhaust was forced into their lungs.

Lack of informed consent was common to both the California and North Carolina cases. The experiments on the children were said to be the equivalent of “about two days exposure to Los Angeles air” and that the only harms from diesel exhaust are lung cancer risks from “high-level lifetime exposures.” However, as Junkscience.com noted, CARB determined in 1998 that there is no safe level of human exposure to diesel exhaust, with both short-term and long-term health consequences. CARB also recognized EPA’s established standard of allowable concentrations for inhaled diesel exhaust at 5 micrograms per cubic meter, which the experiments exceeded by as much as 60 times.

“It’s clear from the documents obtained that the experiments violated the Nuremberg Code, as adopted by the state of California, and the federal regulations known as ‘The Common Rule,’ which are intended to protect human subjects from rogue researchers,” said Dr. David Schnare, the Energy and Environment Legal Institute’s general counsel.

Similarly, test subjects in North Carolina were not warned of potential harms from the diesel exhaust experiments. Advertisements in the Chapel Hill area, including in UNC’s newspaper The Daily Tar Heel, enticed people to participate with the promise of payment without explaining the extent of the risks. One student, Landon Huffman, told the NBC affiliate in Raleigh that he was led to believe the benefit of the experiment would be to help people with asthma, like himself.

“I was 18 years old and just interested in making a little extra money,” said Huffman, who said he was paid about $3,000 over a year for his participation. “It seemed like a relatively easy and safe thing to do.”

In 2011 then-EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson testified in a House committee hearing that “particulate matter causes death. It doesn’t make you sick. It’s directly causal to dying sooner than you should.” Her comments had followed the agency’s 2009 summary findings on the pollutant.

Following the revelation of the North Carolina experiments, JunkScience.com founder Steve Milloy said if that is true, then the experiments on her watch were “heinous.” But if not, then there have been extremely serious consequences for America’s economy, especially the electricity and transportation industries that are heavily regulated in the name of protecting the public from pollutants – like those tested on human lungs in North Carolina and Southern California. 

“The only way EPA, USC and UCLA are not guilty of illegal experimentation is if EPA and CARB had wildly exaggerated the dangers of diesel exhaust,” said Rucker, of CFACT. “But in that case, the two regulators have then been grossly misleading the public and Congress in order to issue scientifically unsupported and costly regulations.” 

Paul Chesser is an associate fellow for the National Legal and Policy Center and publishes CarolinaPlottHound.com, an aggregator of North Carolina news.