The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is hard at work finalizing a new proposed rule that could affect public health negatively. The rule, titled “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science,” is not as benign as it sounds.
“This rule would wreak havoc on the ability of government agencies to protect US residents from environmental harms to human health,” wrote Renee N. Salas, MD, MPH, of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues, in an opinion piece published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. “If finalized and adopted, it would make ensuring that we have clean air, unpolluted water, and protection from environmental toxins far more difficult.”
The rule states that scientific reports must have data made publicly available — despite that many studies include human research, which has sensitive and protected health information.
This means that any study that includes sensitive information of that sort could not even be considered for review. Currently, the opposite is true: If there is sensitive information that can’t be made public, independent organizations review and approve. This rule would make it nearly impossible for EPA scientists to assess studies on harm to public health.
The rule then might lead to less research being conducted overall. If scientists see that their work will not be considered in policy decisions, they may decide the effort isn’t worth it.
“This rule would block the EPA from fulfilling its duty to protect public health by preventing it from consulting and relying on the best available research for future regulations,” the authors concluded. “The EPA should withdraw the current proposed transparency rule, which represents just 1 of many assaults on environmental regulations that protect health.”
Salas RN, Laden F, Jacobs WB, Jha AK. The US Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed transparency rule threatens health [published online January 29, 2019]. Ann Intern Med. doi:10.7326/M18-2673.