Discovery of EPA Wrongdoing

On September 15, 2011, publisher Steve Milloy noted a new article entitled, “Case report: Supraventricular Arrhythmia Following Exposure to Concentrated Ambient Air Pollution Particles,” (“Case Report”) which had been published on September 6, 2011 in the online edition of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The Case Report described a 58-year old woman with a personal and family history of heart disease “presented” herself to the EPA’s Human Study’s Facility in Chapel Hill, NC to participate “in a study requiring sequential exposures to filtered air and concentrated ambient particles” (CAPs).

The study subject was then exposed by inhalation (in a sealed chamber wearing a mask through which she inhaled air containing the particles) to CAPs at a level of 112 micrograms per cubic meter. The type of CAP she was exposed to was identified as 563912/cc.

Twenty-three minutes into her exposure, she developed “atrial fibrillation that quickly organized into atrial flutter.” The experiment was immediately stopped and she was “transferred” to the University of North Carolina Medical Center, during which her heart spontaneously reverted back to a normal sinus rhythm.

She was reportedly admitted to the hospital for overnight observation and then discharged the next morning.

Approximately six weeks later, the study subject underwent electrophsyiology study that revealed a “reentrant circuit of the cavotricuspid isthmus which was ablated to prevent potential future episodes of atrial flutter.”

Despite the pre-existing health problems of the woman that the researchers were aware of before the experiment and despite the subsequent discovery of the aberrant cardiac circuit, the researchers nonetheless concluded the Case Report with:

Exposure to air pollution including particulate matter may cause supra ventricular arrhythmias.

Though the Case Report gave no indication that other study subjects were involved, Milloy reasoned that, since the EPA researchers wouldn’t likely go to the trouble of setting up such an experiment for just one subject, that there must have been more study subjects on whom the EPA experimented.

Milloy then took two actions:

  1. Under the Freedom of Information Act, Milloy requested the EPA to provide the results of any related human experiments; and
  2. Milloy e-mailed the lead author of the case report, Dr. Andrew Ghio, inquiring about the whether the CAPs involved in the experiment were coarse or fine particles.

NEXT: The Most Toxic Substance on Earth

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