By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau
FREDERICKSBURG — A lawsuit contends the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is conducting “Nazi-style” experiments on older Americans to study the bodily effect of particulate air pollutants.
The EPA studies, dating back to 2004, are continuing under the name, “Captain,” and involve test subjects ages 50-75 sucking on a tube that releases diesel exhaust and other particulate matter.
“The gas comes right from a truck parked at the intake facility,” says Steve Milloy, the editor of JunkScience.com, which obtained documents through the Freedom of Information Act.
In one instance, a 58-year-old obese woman with a personal and family history of heart problems suffered cardiac arrhythmia in the test chamber and was hospitalized.
Six months later, the EPA concluded that the woman’s arrhythmia was caused by exposure to the particulate matter PM2.5.
Milloy and the Burke-based American Tradition Institute, which sued the EPA in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on Friday, call the tests “ghastly.”
“Not only does (the EPA) conduct violate sacrosanct standards and federal regulations concerning the protection of human subjects used in scientific experiments, it also violates civil and criminal laws,” the suit alleges.
Citing laws promulgated after the horrific human experiments conducted by the Nazis during World War II, Milloy notes, “The Nuremberg Code requires that ‘informed consent’ be obtained from study subjects and prohibits dangerous experimentation in which there is pre-existing reason to believe death or injury might occur.”
The EPA consent form offered to applicants for the experiment, which paid test subjects $12 an hour, stated:
“This study might involve the following risks and/or discomforts to you. If you have any tendency to become uncomfortable in small closed spaces, it is possible that you may become uncomfortable during this study. You will be taken to the exposure chamber when you are first evaluated for suitability for the study to allow you an opportunity to see where you will sit and what the chamber looks like.
“During the exposure to the concentrated air pollution particles, you may experience some minor degree of airway irritation, cough and shortness of breath or wheezing. These symptoms typically disappear 2 to 4 hours after exposure, but may last longer for particularly sensitive people. You will be monitored continuously during the exposure session.”
Some 40 test subjects participated in the study between 2010 and mid-2011, Milloy said.
Cathy Milbourn, an EPA spokeswoman, said the agency is one of 15 federal departments and agencies that conduct or support research with human subjects.
“All human exposure studies conducted by EPA scientists are independently evaluated for safety and ethics, and the results are peer-reviewed,” she said.
Milbourn said the complaint has been referred to the Department of Justice.
The agency has suggested that the human subjects were not exposed to “excessive” levels of PM2.5, and that the risk was minimal.
Yet EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has made no secret of the dangers of PM2.5 pollution, which her agency is tasked to regulate.
“Particulate matter causes premature death. It doesn’t make you sick. It’s directly causal to dying sooner than you should,” Jackson testified to Congress in September 2011.
The toxicity and danger of PM2.5 has been largely based on statistical work conducted by agency-paid researchers at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
“It could very well be that the EPA was attempting to develop real-life evidence of harm from PM2.5 by ‘threading the needle’ — conducting experiments in which it hoped to detect some sort of adverse effect from the PM2.5 experiments without causing any significant or actual harm to anyone,” Milloy says.
William Roper, vice chancellor for medical affairs at the UNC Health Care System, stated in a June 28 letter to Milloy the school was “reviewing the circumstances of the study.”
Jennifer James, spokeswoman for UNC health care, told Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau on Monday that “UNC has no comment on the lawsuit against the EPA.”
An Internal Review Board at the school, however, raised questions about the EPA experiments, saying it was “concerned about the potential risks of this study and the fact that these may be understated in the consent form.”
“If the risks are unknown, that should be stated instead of suggesting that the risks are minimal,” the IRB wrote.
Milloy said, “Regardless of motive, the EPA’s conduct is barred by federal regulations and EPA’s own rules, as well as the memory of the Nuremberg tribunal, the Tuskegee syphilis experiments on African-Americans starting in the 1930s, and other crimes against humanity committed in the name of medical science.”
The lawsuit filed by David Schnare of the American Tradition Institute, a free-market environmental law clinic, requests that the EPA tests cease immediately.
Additionally, it asks that the court “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 … and reevaluate the risks from fine particulate matter to ensure EPA does not rely in any fashion upon illegal human experimentation.”
Contact Ward at kenric@watchdogvirginia or (571) 319-9824