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EPA Finalizes 'Transparency' Rule, Which Critics Say Undermines Public Health

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The EPA is finalizing a rule that says it’ll prioritize science that publishes raw data to make policy decisions.

The agency says the rule promotes transparency and trust in science.

However, critics say there is already transparency within the published science, and the requirement for raw data could discount health research that relies on private patient files.

“You don’t need the raw dose data to test the research results to make sure that it’s done properly to have peer review,” said Sean Gallagher, senior government relations officer with the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

He says the EPA’s mission is to protect humans and the environment, “and they do that by looking at science ... If the science is hampered in that process, it harms everyone.”

Gallagher says demanding that raw patient data be published will hamper the process.

“If they’re doing studies on exposure to pollution or mercury or toxins or PFAS and chemicals, those types of studies will be negatively impacted if our predictions are correct and the EPA can’t use them as they have in the past,” he said.

In the past, studies that rely on patient data were used to link pollution to deaths, spurring the Clean Air Act. Mountain West researchers played a big part in that.

Gretchen Goldman is the research director at the Center for Science and Democracy with the Union of Concerned Scientists. She also thinks the rule will limit access to health research and hurt American’s health.

“It is going to have devastating impacts on the ability of our nation to protect people against environmental threats,” she said.

The new rule has been in the works for years, and went into effect immediately this week. It’s unclear how long it would take the Biden administration to roll back the rule if it decides to take that course.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2021 Boise State Public Radio News. To see more, visit Boise State Public Radio News.

Madelyn Beck
Madelyn Beck is Boise State Public Radio's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau. She's from Montana but has reported everywhere from North Dakota to Alaska to Washington, D.C. Her last few positions included covering energy resources in Wyoming and reporting on agriculture/rural life issues in Illinois.
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