Asthmatic Subjected to EPA Experiments; Inhofe Wants Hearing

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A former student at the University of North Carolina has come forward publicly to call attention to the disturbing experiments the Environmental Protection Agency has conducted – and is likely still performing – at its Human Studies Facility in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Meanwhile Sen. James Inhofe (pictured), ranking minority member on the Environment and Public Works Committee, has requested that Chairman Barbara Boxer conduct a hearing about EPA’s activities during the current lame-duck session.

The student, Landon Huffman, found out about the EPA program through an advertisement in The Daily Tar Heel, the university’s newspaper. The experiments exposed subjects to fine particulate matter (called “PM2.5”) at extremely elevated levels for up to two hours at a time. Researchers – at the direction of medical doctors – sought test subjects with health problems such as heart conditions, obesity or breathing difficulties. Huffman is an asthmatic and is a member-plaintiff in a lawsuit against EPA to get the experiments halted.

According to the complaint filed in Virginia, Huffman “was led to believe that the benefit of the experiment would be to help people with asthma…. He was not informed that the pollution EPA was forcing into his lungs could actually cause him to have an asthma attack.”

In July 2011 EPA reported in the Federal Register announcement of its Cross-State Air Pollution Rule that “a recent EPA analysis estimated that 2005 levels of PM2.5 and ozone were responsible for between 130,000 and 320,000 PM2.5-related…premature deaths….” And last September EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, “Particulate matter causes death. It doesn’t make you sick. It’s directly causal to dying sooner than you should.”

In an interview last week with WNCN-TV, NBC’s affiliate in Raleigh, Huffman said EPA did not warn him about the dangers he was facing by inhaling PM2.5 at the Human Studies Facility.

“I was 18 years old and just interested in making a little extra money,” he told the station. “It seemed like a relatively easy and safe thing to do.”

Huffman said he earned $3,000 dollars over the course of a year for his participation. 

“They convinced me that what I was doing was harmless,” Huffman said. “That I was breathing air from outside... Why would they lie to me, why would they mislead me like that?”

According to documents that sound science advocate Steve Milloy received via the Freedom of Information Act from EPA, none of the test subjects were told that their health, or lives, were endangered. As Dr. David Schnare, the lawyer with American Tradition Institute which filed the lawsuit against EPA, explained, “It is difficult to overstate the atrocity of this research.”

“EPA parked a truck’s exhaust pipe directly beneath an intake pipe on the side of a building. The exhaust was sucked into the pipe, mixed with some additional air and then piped directly into the lungs of the human subjects. EPA actually has pictures of this gas chamber, a clear plastic pipe stuck into the mouth of a subject, his lips sealing it to his face, diesel fumes inhaled straight into his lungs.”

In the report by Raleigh’s WNCN, Milloy said the EPA failed to inform its test subjects about the risks involved, and that the UNC Institutional Review Board was also responsible as the local overseer to safeguard Huffman and the 40 others who EPA put in the gas chamber. Another of the subjects, a 58-year-old obese woman with a history of health problems and family history of heart disease, experienced atrial fibrillation during the experiments.

“UNC completely let these people down,” Milloy said. “They jeopardized the health and welfare of their human subjects that they are charged to protect.”

As a result Milloy also filed a complaint with the North Carolina Medical Board against four doctors who conducted the experiments for EPA. In his letter to the board he cited the doctors failure to uphold their Hippocratic Oath, in which they pledge to “exercise my art solely for the benefit of my patients” and “the relief of suffering, the prevention of disease and the promotion of health….”

As for EPA, Sen. James Inhofe believes a Congressional inquiry is warranted.

“EPA has repeatedly said that these substances can cause cancer and lead to death,” the Oklahoma Republican said in a press statement, “so if these allegations of human experiments are true, it just validates the problem that the Obama-EPA’s mission is not about public health.”

In his letter that requested the hearing, Inhofe reminded Sen. Boxer of a 2005 report prepared for her and Democrat Rep. Henry Waxman by the Minority Staff of the House Committee on Government Reform that addressed concerns about EPA “Human Pesticide Experiments.”  The study examined 22 experiments in which people were exposed to pesticides, which in part concluded “that the studies have serious ethical problems, including experimental designs that caused adverse health effects or put human subjects at risk, lack of informed consent, (and) impermissible waivers of liability….”

In light of that experience, Inhofe said another investigation of EPA was warranted.

“It also appears that the EPA researchers failed to inform the institutional review board and the study subjects of its official views concerning the lethality and toxicity of PM2.5 and diesel exhaust,” Inhofe wrote to Boxer. “The EPA’s conduct may violate the laws, regulations and ethical standards set for the protection of human subjects. Indeed, the EPA may be criminally liable for its conduct.”

Paul Chesser is an associate fellow for the National Legal and Policy Center and publishes CarolinaPlottHound.com, an aggregator of North Carolina news. He was also director of communications last year, and a senior fellow for part of this year, for the American Tradition Institute, which filed the lawsuit representing Steve Milloy.