EPA Challenged on Carbon Monoxide

     WASHINGTON (CN) – Carbon monoxide exposure studies face misconduct allegations but regulators won’t say what they’re doing about it, activists told a federal judge.
     The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility slapped the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of the Inspector General with a lawsuit Wednesday for having withheld documents requested back in May.
     Explaining the background for his group’s claims, PEER executive director Jeff Ruch said in an interview that the EPA came under fire decades ago after three hotline complaints alleged unsafe exposure of human subjects to carbon monoxide for a study the EPA commissioned that was published in 1989.
     “We’re hoping to find out whether they actually investigated the allegations, and if they did what they found,” Ruch said. “And if they didn’t, to get them to admit it.”
     The EPA has not changed its national ambient air quality standards for carbon monoxide since 1971, and relies on the 1989 study for current exposure limits, Ruch added.
     Among scientists who have heavily criticized the study are Albert Donnay, who claimed it contained more than 100 errors and inconsistencies in its the methods, results and conclusions, and erroneously relied on one study group to determine safe carbon monoxide levels.
     In response to a congressional request, the EPA inspector general reviewed the agency’s protocols last year for exposing human subjects to toxins during scientific studies to determine safe exposure levels.
     Though that review concluded that the agency had followed regulations in conducting human-subjects research, it found room for improvement in how the EPA gets approvals for studies, how it communicates risk to study participants and how the agency handles follow-ups with people who experienced adverse reactions to toxin exposure during its studies.
     PEER wants to use the records from the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General to lobby for stricter regulations of safe carbon monoxide levels, since the gas is the top toxic killer in the U.S., Ruch said.
     Between 1999 and 2010, carbon monoxide killed some 5,100 people, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
     PEER says the agency had 20 days from the time it received the request “to respond or to assert the need for a ten-day extension.”
     According to federal public records law, agencies must promptly respond to reasonable requests for public records. The advocacy organization wants the U.S. District Court to force the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General to hand over the records.
     The EPA Office of the Inspector General declined a request to comment on the case.

%d bloggers like this: