COVID-19 and Environmentalist Injustice
Congress held a hearing last week on “the relationship between disproportionate exposures to environmental pollution and disproportionate effects of the 2019 coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.” The spotlighted news hook for the hearing was a recent study published by Harvard researchers claiming that PM2.5 air pollution (soot/dust in the air) increases the risk of death from COVID-19.
Subcommittee Chair Frank Pallone (D-New Jersey) converted the study’s claim into an environmental justice issue under the further assertion that “EPA has a documented body of evidence that non-white people are at higher risk [of death] from PM2.5 because of higher exposures.” Pallone went on to blame PM2.5 with a higher rate of asthma emergency department visits among high poverty neighborhoods in New York City.
What a load of nonsense.
First, the Harvard study does not and cannot possibly connect PM2.5 exposures with increased risk from COVID-19 deaths because PM2.5 does not increase the risk of death or asthma in the first place. Anyone who has ever actually studied PM2.5 and is honest about what they have learned knows this.
With the help of EPA-funded Harvard researchers, the Clinton EPA painted PM2.5 in outdoor air as a killer in 1996. At the time, EPA claimed that PM2.5 killed 15,000 people per year. Although EPA’s outside board of science advisors, the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), concluded there was no evidence that PM2.5 killed anyone the Clinton EPA ignored that advice and regulated anyway.
By 2011, the Obama EPA had converted PM2.5 into a mass killer. Obama EPA Chief Lisa Jackson told Congress that PM2.5 killed about 570,000 Americans per year, i.e., caused about 1-in-5 deaths. The Obama EPA then used this assessment of PM2.5 to drive the scientific and economic rationale for its devastating war on coal rules.
But the PM2.5 epidemiology studies that the Obama EPA relied on to destroy the coal industry again did not prove that PM2.5 killed anyone, a fact the Obama EPA was compelled to admit in federal court with me.
To overcome this known and embarrassing falsehood, the Obama EPA attempted to show via bizarre, if not illegal, human experiments that PM2.5 killed. It conducted numerous clinical experiments in which elderly and sick people, including asthmatics, were given intense exposure to PM2.5 for hours at a time. Appalling experimentation aside, no one was harmed as the experiments failed to elicit even a cough or a wheeze. But regardless, like the Clinton EPA before it, the Obama EPA regulated PM2.5 even more.
But epidemiology and human experiments that fail to convict PM2.5 as a killer aren’t the only indications that the claim is false. A host of data, most notably Chinese air quality data, does the same. In China, PM2.5 levels, especially in the winter, can be ten times higher than the US. But no deaths from PM2.5 have ever been reported during these pollution incidents. If PM2.5 made COVID-19 as deadly as the Harvard researchers claimed, Wuhan would have been littered with dead bodies.
The Obama EPA’s PM2.5 science fraud finally came to a crashing halt last December when a new CASAC board thoroughly trashed the Clinton-Obama EPA’s deceptive narrative.
The board assured the Trump EPA that there was no need to make existing PM2.5 standards more stringent as greens have been agitating for and concluded that there was no scientific evidence that PM2.5 causes harm - no deaths, no asthma or anything else.
Nonetheless, amid the coronavirus pandemic in early April, Harvard’s debunked PM2.5 researchers tried to restart PM2.5 hysteria with a hastily published study claiming that PM2.5 increased deaths from COVID-19. This junk science-fueled claim is routinely parroted in media articles on ‘environmental justice’ or ‘environmental racism’ and now in Congress as well.
Back to the environmental justice claim, while all people who live in urban areas may have slightly higher exposures to PM2.5, the reality is that PM2.5 in outdoor air is quite harmless, including to minorities.
That House Democrats think PM2.5 is their best example of “environmental injustice” or “environmental racism” just goes to demonstrate how intellectually bankrupt those notions are.
While it is true that African-Americans as a group have suffered at a proportionately greater rate from COVID-19 - as well as many other illnesses - than other population groups, this has nothing to do with the environment so much as it does with poverty, education and the increased rate of co-morbidities that go along with those two problems.
As it turns out and beyond PM2.5, claims of “environmental justice” and “environmental racism” are just inventions and unfounded claims of radical green groups. Used for political reasons, all they really do is block or remove good-paying, standard-of-living improving job opportunities from minority communities. The more accurate term is “environmentalist injustice.”
Steve Milloy publishes JunkScience.com, served on the Trump EPA transition team and is the author of “Scare Pollution: Why and How to Fix the EPA” (Bench Press 2016).