Steve Milloy: You Want Bodies? Read the Research

BY ON July 27, 2011

In a recent Washington Times piece, Junk Science blogger and Fox News commentator Steven Milloy denies that there is a connection between disease and air pollution from coal and disease–a connection that has been scientifically established for 40 years. At least he’s got an accurate name for his outfit. Junk Science indeed.

In his Washington Times piece, Milloy also accused Environmental Defense Fund of faking its ad showing a child suffering from an asthma attack. I put in a call to EDF–which Milloy didn’t bother to do because truth might get in the way of attitude–and got the real story. The child’s mother filmed the treatment of her daughter’s asthma attack, compressor and all, in the hospital. She posted it online so that a faraway relative could see what was happening. EDF came across the video and the family graciously agreed to let EDF use it to highlight what asthmatic children endure. EDF has protected the family’s identity, but representatives there are confident that the mother would speak to reporters on background to verify the account.

Now, let’s hit the science. It is important to keep the facts front and center, especially when science deniers have access to millions of Americans through Fox News, where they spread confusion with lies and disinformation. US scientists are world-renowned and intellectually respected across the globe.

So here’s a reality check: a tiny sampling of the science linking coal pollution and disease.

Check out this study on how exactly air pollution impairs regulatory T-cell function in asthmatics.

A study called Reduction in Fine Particulate Air Pollution and Mortality from 2006 is a follow up to the Six Cities study by Pope et all, one of the key studies on mortality associated with particulate pollution.

Another important resource is the Expert Elicitation on the EPA and Particulate Matter Pollution conducted by EPA in 2006 at the urging of Bush OMB head John Graham. It was commissioned to aid attacks previously advanced by industry about EPA’s clean air policy decisions and their reliance on the mortality effects associated with particulate pollution. But the leading scientific experts who underwent these intensive interviews ended up supporting the research.

Here’s a study seeking specifically to disentangle the effects of weather and temperature from the studies on asthma a nd pollution. The science shows significant correlations between reported asthma attack rates and temperature, and between attack rate and pollution levels after the effects of temperature had been removed from the analysis. These temperature-independent air pollution effects occurred at levels of pollution commonly found in large cities, and appeared greater at moderate than at low temperatures.

What’s striking is that this research is from 1972. We’ve known for almost 40 years that there is a link between coal-fired power plant pollution and asthma.

Here’s how mercury from coal, among other sources, converts in our waterways into methylmercury, is eaten by fish, and ultimately accumulates in the fatty tissue of human beings.

Fetuses, whose brains are the largest repository of fatty tissue, are especially at risk of mercury poisoning, which interrupts the normal development of brain architecture. This is why pregnant women are advised to limit their consumption of tuna fish, found to be high in mercury content.

Here is the chorus of scientists and doctors who have spent years studying the numbers, and the connection between illness, death, and air pollution. A quote from the professionals: “We treat patients who are impacted by lung, cardiovascular and neurological impairments…We are doctors and we see in patients we treat what the scientific literature lets us know to expect: that air pollution makes people sick and cuts lives short.

If Milloy continues to think that doctors and scientists are all Marxist environmentalists (my Republican dad, a doctor, would get a real snort out of that) I have to wonder what doctor he has found, who would recommend that he choose to live near a coal plant and expose himself to polluted air for a few years.

Check out this study of air pollution and disease and mortality in Pittsburgh.

The science, in layperson’s terms, on the connection between lung disease and particle pollution from cars, trucks, coal plants, from the American Lung Association.

And here’s a piece from the LA Times on a study done in Germany examining the connection between soot and respiratory and heart disease.

The scientific research is robust, and this list could go on and on. For good measure a few more: and

This should get everyone started on a better understanding of how coal emissions compromise human health. I tried to post this response on JunkScience, but I notice I’ve been blocked from the comments. So that’s how Milloy makes it look like we’re not responding–and that’s how he keeps the facts from his readers.

TOPICS: Asthma, Coal, Mercury Poisoning, Politics, Pollution