NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The EPA's Flawed Zero Tolerance Policy

June 14, 2012

For the last three years, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has justified new air quality regulations -- unprecedented in stringency and cost -- on the assumption that even trace levels of particulate matter can cause early death.  The EPA's guiding principle in this effort has been that there is no price too high to preempt further particulate reduction, says Kathleen Hartnett White, a senior fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

The EPA has gone so far in this endeavor as to claim that its rules will save 230,000 lives by 2020.  However, such rhetoric is built on implausible assumptions, biased models, statistical manipulations and cherry-picked studies.

  • The EPA emphasizes the killing potential of airborne particulate matter, yet physicians and toxicologists have found little evidence of this drastic conclusion.
  • The EPA's zero-tolerance principle for health risks compels it to herculean regulatory ends, including reducing particular matter below levels found in nature.
  • Natural background levels of 1 microgram of fine particulate matter per cubic meter will logically become the next target for the EPA.

The EPA's claimed mandate places it on a losing path; particulate matter realistically cannot be reduced below certain ambient levels.  Nevertheless, its rules will impose enormous cost on the economy in an ill-advised effort to accomplish exactly this.

  • Indoor levels of fine particulates are far higher than outside levels.
  • Simple tasks such as cleaning a closet and cooking expose individuals to high levels of particulate matter that cannot be reduced by regulation.
  • Nevertheless, the EPA will continue to make a show of targeting particulates under the guise of fulfilling the directives of the Clean Air Act.

Interestingly, the national standard for acceptable particulate matter concentration remains at 15 micrograms per cubic meter.  Were the EPA truly so convinced of the rightness of its conclusions, one would think it would be quick to revise this standard.  The fact that it hasn't suggests that EPA regulators are well aware of the fallibility of their claims.

Source: Kathleen Hartnett White, "The EPA's Flawed Zero Tolerance Policy," Daily Caller, June 4, 2012.

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