A study from Harvard University linking pollution to coronavirus deaths has reinvigorated Democrats to attack the Trump administration’s environmental policies as per usual, but it has not been peer-reviewed yet, and the authors recently had to amend their conclusions to admit that there was a weaker association between deaths from coronavirus deaths and long-term soot exposure than they had posited earlier. The EPA pointed out that the study has not been peer-reviewed as yet.
Nevertheless, as The Washington Post reports, Democratic politicians are using the findings of the study to harass the Trump administration. Former New York mayor and 2020 presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg cowrote an op-ed this week with former EPA chief Gina McCarthy in which they cited the Harvard study, then stated, “Scientists are warning us that air pollution makes Covid-19, which strikes at the lungs, more deadly. Nonetheless, in the space of about a month, the president has repeatedly undermined rules limiting air pollution. Tens of thousands of Americans will die as a result … Despite this danger, the Trump administration has launched a series of attempts to make our air dirtier and harder to breathe.”
18 Senate Democrats cited the Harvard research in a letter on April 14 to administrator Andrew Wheeler, writing:
A new study from the Harvard School of Public Health suggests a link between more air pollution and higher mortality among COVID-19 patients. Yet despite this ongoing public health emergency, the EPA has taken steps in recent weeks that will increase air pollution, including rolling back auto emissions standards. Today, EPA announced its decision to maintain current national ambient air quality standards that EPA’s own scientists say fail to protect public health – and that research links with higher COVID-19 mortality. The Environmental Protection Agency should be taking actions that will further protect health during this crisis, not put more Americans at risk.
But Louis Anthony Cox, a consultant and member of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board, fired back at the idea of citing the study, arguing, “This is not a model that is ready for prime time,” adding, “This is bad science dressed up as policy-relevant science.” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler stated bluntly, “I think it’s premature to put too much weight on a study that hasn’t been finalized or peer reviewed yet.”
The EPA stated, “Drawing conclusions from a study without peer review and with insufficient data is irresponsible and paints a distorted scientific picture.”
One of the authors of the study, Francesca Dominici, agreed that the results of the study had limitations but insisted that other research teams had reached similar conclusions, saying, “Big policy regulation should be guided by consensus evidenceand the consensus evidence is out there in terms of how harmful” soot is.
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