Date: March 24, 2004 Contacts: Bill Kearney, Director of Media Relations Megan Petty, Media Relations Assistant Office of News and Public Information 202-334-2138; e-mail <email@example.com>
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sustained Commitment to Research on Particulate Matter Is Critical for Informing Long-Term Regulatory, Public Health Decisions
WASHINGTON -- Particulate matter research conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other scientists in recent years has led to a better understanding of the health effects caused by the tiny airborne particles, says a new report from the National Academies' National Research Council. However, the committee that wrote the report said that even as EPA implements strategies to control particulate matter in the near term, it should -- in concert with other agencies -- continue research in order to reduce uncertainties further and inform long-term decisions.
EPA should sponsor research to determine which chemical components and other characteristics of particulate matter are the most hazardous -- especially when mixed with other airborne pollutants -- and which population groups are the most susceptible, the report says. Research is also needed to better characterize and track particles from various emission sources. The government's continued support and enhancement of particulate matter research would "undoubtedly yield substantial benefits for years to come," the report concludes.
"Much has been learned in the last five years, and the evidence gained is already being used by decision-makers," said committee chair Jonathan Samet, professor and chair, department of epidemiology, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. "We need to continue to invest in developing an even greater understanding to take full advantage of the work already done, and to complete the foundation of evidence needed to protect public health. The emphasis now should shift from studying whether particulate matter causes adverse health effects to studying the dose at which those effects are likely to occur. We also need to know which aspects of particulate matter are most hazardous, and to learn how people are exposed to hazardous particles and how these particles trigger injury."
Particulate matter consists of diverse substances such as dust, smoke, soot, and other small particles emitted by cars and trucks, forest fires, electric power plants, and other sources. The report calls for a continued systematic approach to studying the large variety of possible relationships between particulate matter and health effects. A better understanding of the size and type of particulate matter being emitted by different sources is also needed, as are improved computer models to link pollution sources with concentrations of airborne particulate matter in specific areas. These improvements could lead to emission control strategies which target the particulate matter that presents the greatest threat to public health.
The report is the fourth and final one in a series requested by Congress to provide independent guidance to EPA's long-term particulate matter research program. Congress appropriated substantial funding for such research after EPA in 1997 tightened its standard for allowable concentrations of particulate matter. Under the Clean Air Act, EPA is required to review the scientific basis for the regulations every five years to determine if revisions are warranted. The agency's research effort has largely followed the first five years of a 13-year research agenda recommended by the committee in its first report.
By 1997, studies were already showing that inhaling particulate matter could exacerbate lung ailments, even causing premature death in some instances. New results confirm that outdoor measures of particulate matter are a good indicator for use in public health studies and that more particulate matter is deposited in the lungs of people with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Other findings show that a number of groups – such as seniors, and people with diabetes or heart disease -- may be particularly susceptible to the particles.
Researchers also should conduct a long-term study of the health effects of chronic exposure to particulate matter, the committee said. It also re-emphasized an earlier recommendation to include scientists from many disciplines in the overall research effort. In addition, the research program should move toward one that addresses multiple air pollutants, because real-world exposures involve complex mixtures of hundreds of air contaminants. EPA should continue to seek independent review of its particulate matter research program.
The study was sponsored by EPA. The National Research Council is the principal operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. It is a private, nonprofit institution that provides science and technology advice under a congressional charter. A committee roster follows.
NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL Division on Earth and Life Studies Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology
Committee on Research Priorities for Airborne Particulate Matter
Jonathan Samet, M.D.1 (chair) Professor and Chair Department of Epidemiology Bloomberg School of Public Health Johns Hopkins University Baltimore
Judith C. Chow, Sc.D. Research Professor Division of Atmospheric Sciences Desert Research Institute University and Community College System of Nevada Reno
Bart E. Croes, M.S. Chief, Research Division California Air Resources Board Sacramento
Robert E. Forster, M.D.2 Isaac Ott Professor Emeritus Department of Physiology University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine Philadelphia
Daniel S. Greenbaum, M.C.P. President and Chief Executive Officer Health Effects Institute Boston
Philip K. Hopke, Ph.D. Bayard D. Clarkson Distinguished Professor Departments of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry Clarkson University Potsdam, N.Y.
Petros Koutrakis, Ph.D. Director, Environmental Chemistry Laboratory, and Professor of Environmental Sciences Harvard University Boston
Daniel Krewski, M.Sc., Ph.D. Professor of Medicine, Epidemiology, and Community Medicine University of Ottawa; and Adjunct Research Professor of Statistics Carleton University Ottawa
Paul James Lioy, Ph.D. Professor of Environmental and Community Medicine University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey Piscataway
Joe L. Mauderly, D.V.M. Vice President Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, and President Lovelace Biomedical and Environmental Research Institute Albuquerque, N.M.
Roger O. McClellan, D.V.M.1 President Emeritus Chemical Industry Institute of Toxicology Albuquerque, N.M.
Günter Oberdörster, D.V.M., Ph.D. Professor, Department of Environmental Medicine, and Head of the Division of Respiratory Biology and Toxicology University of Rochester Rochester, N.Y.
Rebecca Parkin, M.P.H., Ph.D. Associate Dean for Research and Public Health Practice, and Associate Professor and Scientific Director Center for Risk Science and Public Health George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services Washington, D.C.
Joyce Penner, Ph.D. Chair Geosciences Advisory Committee National Science Foundation, and Professor of Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Space Sciences University of Michigan Ann Arbor
Richard Schlesinger, Ph.D. Professor and Chair Department of Biological Sciences Pace University New York City
Frank Speizer, M.D.1 Professor of Medicine Harvard Medical School, and Professor of Environmental Science Harvard School of Public Health Boston
Mark Utell, M.D. Professor of Medicine and Environmental Medicine University of Rochester School of Medicine Rochester, N.Y.
Ronald H. White, M.S. Associate Scientist Department of Epidemiology Bloomberg School of Public Health Johns Hopkins University Baltimore
Warren H. White, Ph.D. Visiting Professor Crocker Nuclear Laboratory University of California Davis
Ronald Wyzga, Sc.D. Technical Executive Air Quality, Health, and Risk Area Electrical Power Research Institute Palo Alto, Calif.
Terry F. Yosie, Ph.D. Vice President Environmental, Health, Safety, and Security Performance American Chemistry Council Arlington, Va.
RESEARCH COUNCIL STAFF
Raymond A. Wassel, M.S. Project Director
1 Member, Institute of Medicine 2 Member, National Academy of Sciences