Environmental policy changes proposed by the Trump administration could lead to an extra 80,000 American deaths per decade, according to two Harvard scientists.
David Cutler, a public-health economist, and Francesca Dominici, a biostatistician, say that figure is ‘an extremely conservative estimate’ in the essay published on Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Rolling back the Clean Power Plan will lead to an estimated 36,000 deaths and a repeal of emission requirements for certain vehicles will lead to an estimated 14,000 deaths, they wrote.
They argue that the changing policies could cause respiratory problems as well for more than one million people over a decade, many of them children.
The essay, which is not a formal peer-reviewed study, has added to a growing debate about what many see as an assault by the Trump administration on policies regarding environmental health.
Environmental policy changes proposed by the Trump administration could lead to extra 80,000 American deaths per decade, according to two Harvard scientists
Cutler and Dominici reviewed eight EPA policy actions either in progress or that have been proposed.
These include a repeal of the Clean Power Plan, a rollback of Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards or automobiles, and revoking the Waters of the United States Rule – which are Obama-era rules for clean air, chemical and water, respectively.
Dominici, a biostatistician at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and Cutler, an economist at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, made their calculations from health risk assessments conducted by the EPA during the Obama administration.
‘A central feature of [Trump’s] agenda is environmental damage: making the air dirtier and exposing people to more toxic chemicals,’ the pair wrote.
‘The beneficiaries, in contrast, will be a relatively few well-connected companies.’
The scientists argue that many of the repeals and rollbacks will expose Americans to atmospheric particulate matter, popularly known as smog.
Smog contains a pollutant called ozone, which has been proven to be harmful to human health.
Ozone can aggravate health problems such as asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and other respiratory problems. It can also reduce resistance to colds and lung infections.
The two researchers say that changes in air quality will have the most detrimental consequences on public health.
They estimate that repealing Obama’s Clean Power Plan alone would lead to 36,000 deaths and 630,000 cases of respiratory infection in children within the next decade.
About 90 percent of the increase in respiratory ailments is attributed to a loophole that would be reopened to allow trucks that don’t comply with pollution rules to remain on the road, according to the authors
The scientists argue that many of the repeals and rollbacks will expose Americans to atmospheric particulate matter, popularly known as smog
In a statement to Bloomberg, the EPA, which is run by climate change skeptic Scott Pruitt, said the essay was rhetoric and not research.
‘This is not a scientific article, it’s a political article. The science is clear, under President Trump greenhouse gas emissions are down,’ the statement read.
‘Superfundsites are being cleaned up at a higher rate than under President Obama, and the federal government is investing more money to improve water infrastructure than ever before.’
Pruitt has been plagued by scandal, reportedly using taxpayer money for extravagant purchases, including a $43,000 soundproof booth for his office.
He is also under investigation for allegedly abusing his power, bypassing the White House to give two of his favorite aides large raises.
But Cutler defended the essay, saying that the estimates were based on impact analyses conducted by the EPA itself.
‘If they don’t like what their scientists say, they should provide scientific reasons for thinking so,’ he told Bloomberg.