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Scientists cut by Trump Administration continue to work and are warning of dangerous air quality

Posted November 13, 2019 5:33 p.m. EST
Updated November 13, 2019 7:27 p.m. EST

— A group of scientists cut by the Trump administration last year is continuing to do the work it planned to do and is urging the government to adopt stricter clean air policies to protect public health.

Dr. Chris Frey, who is a professor at North Carolina State University, is the chair of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) on particulate matter, which was disbanded in 2018. He's an expert on particulate matter and has been involved in advising the Environmental Protection Agency for more than three decades.

"These particles are so small that they can get into the lung," said Frey.

And that's why the government has regulations on how much can be in our air. The EPA is in the process of setting those standards and, in years past, would have relied on the expertise of the CASAC.

"The problem with that is, they just don't have the expertise to do the review, and they have actually said that," Frey said.

So Frey and the other members of the disbanded group decided to meet anyway and followed the same agenda they planned to follow before being told their services were no longer needed.

The group concluded it is time to make changes to the standard to reduce the amount of particulate matter in the air.

"There's strong evidence of adverse effects to people, including premature death, at ambient levels of particles that are well below the current standard," he said.

Frey said the group sent a full report of its findings to the EPA as a public comment.

The EPA said it's comfortable with the expertise of its core members.

"EPA is committed to scientific integrity and transparency," a spokesperson told WRAL News. "EPA has the utmost confidence in its career scientists and the members on its science advisory boards and panels. EPA routinely takes comments from the public and outside organizations, including those not employed or associated with EPA, and will continue to take into consideration those comments that meet our scientific standards."

Frey said he is concerned the advice of his panel will be ignored.

"The bad outcome is, if the standard is not made more stringent, real people are going to be harmed," he said.

Making the rules stricter could require states and businesses to implement new pollution control measures, which could be costly. The EPA's review process is expected to wrap up in 2020.

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