Last week, The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) spoke out against a proposed rule that would severely limit the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) ability to safeguard public health. In particular, it would have a significant impact on the way the agency regulates chemicals, including those associated with Parkinson's disease (PD) risk.
There is much research linking commonly used herbicides and solvents with PD, and many of these studies keep the health information of participants confidential. Currently, the PD community is using several of these studies to urge the EPA to ban the use of paraquat, an herbicide associated with increased Parkinson's risk. (Read more on these efforts.) However, a rule proposed in April by the EPA Administrator would restrict the scientific information available to the agency by forcing the EPA to consider only those studies where all underlying participant data is publicly available.
Dozens of Groups Voice Concerns with Proposal
On Monday, July 16, MJFF joined nearly 70 health, academic and scientific groups to call on the EPA to strike down the rule. In a joint press release, the groups warned that the proposal would allow the agency to make "decisions affecting millions based on inadequate information that fails to include well-supported studies by expert scientists."
On the same day, MJFF co-hosted a press call with the American Lung Association in which public health experts spoke to reporters on the topic. While the EPA claims the rule will strengthen scientific transparency, George Thurston, ScD, professor of environmental medicine and population health at New York University, said, "There are already measures in place that assess quality assurance, that are available and could be used to solve the purported problems that this seeks to address."
Beate Ritz, MD, PhD, professor of epidemiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, discussed the importance of keeping study participant information confidential. "We cannot really anonymize these records because we are environmental scientists, which means we have to link where people live, where people work, where people breathe the air to exposures that we have been measuring." Because of this, many studies on environmental causes of disease can't make their underlying data publicly available, as the proposed rule requires, without compromising volunteers' personal identifying details.
MJFF Provides Further Comments to the EPA
The EPA hosted a public hearing on Tuesday, July 17, during which dozens of speakers, including Brittany Meyer, JD, associate director of public policy at MJFF, went to the EPA headquarters to voice their opposition to the proposal.
"Policy should enable our nation's regulators to make informed decisions about chemicals and substances in our environment that could impact public health and increase disease risk," says Meyer. "When it comes to regulating herbicides like paraquat, the EPA can't do its job if it can't access all available scientific information on the subject."
The EPA is accepting written comments on this rule through Friday, August 17. The Michael J. Fox Foundation submitted comments last week. Join us in telling the agency to strike down this harmful proposal. Use our online tool to easily submit your own comments to the EPA today.