As the year moves on, yet another of the (possible) appointees to the Trump administration has been found to have some pretty insane views. This time around it is Robert Phalen, an air pollution researcher who is expected to be chosen as a science advisor for the Environmental Protection Agency.
On paper, this sounds great. A scientist, who spent his academic career studying the impacts of pollution on health, advising the EPA as it tries to gut restrictions on industry could only be a good thing, right? Wrong.
“The relative risks associated with modern [particulate matter] are very small and confounded by many factors,” Robert Phalen wrote in a 2004 study. “Neither toxicology studies nor human clinical investigations have identified the components and/or characteristics of [particulate matter] that might be causing the health-effect associations.”
Oh. We’re not sure that it really needs to be pointed out, but there are many, many such studies that attest to the fact that the risks from air pollution are anything but “very small”. Only last month, a major report revealed that up to 9 million people die every year due to health problems linked to dirty air. And it’s not just physical health that is affected, as other studies suggest it could be hitting our mental health too.
In fairness, Phalen did make those claims back in 2004, when perhaps he was unaware of the millions of people dying from air pollution every single year. That excuse, however, is harder to swallow when in 2012 he is reported to have said that “modern air is a little too clean for optimum health,” and that children need to breathe in irritants to prime their immune systems (yep, you read that right).
Phalen thinks that “modern air” is “too clean” for children, and that they need to breath in air pollution. Just think about that for a moment.
While it's true that there is some evidence to suggest that exposing children to certain irritants early in life can reduce their chances of developing certain allergies, there's minimal evidence to suggest this holds true for air pollution. In fact, it's consistently been shown that children who inhale air pollution have higher rates of asthma.
Another study on young children growing up in London found that their lungs were a full 10 percent smaller in volume compared to children growing up in the countryside. This does not seem to show that the air is “too clean".
But good news guys, because if Scott Pruitt has his way, Phalen will be advising the EPA on how to tackle the growing problem of air pollution across the United States. But first, maybe someone should warn him that air pollution can also make people transgender, apparently.