The Environmental Protection Agency tightened the standards for lead in the air for the first time in 30 years, a move that will help protect the developing brains of children who live in communities near iron and steel mills, copper smelters, mines, trash incinerators, concrete factories and certain airports.
But the new standard the EPA set failed to match the limit recommended by agency scientists.
The reaction, then, was predictable. Critics and the Bush EPA has earned many applauded the first improvements to the lead air standard in 30 years, noted that the EPA only followed the law and revised its standard because it was forced to by a successful lawsuit brought by environmental groups, and decried the agency's pattern of ignoring its best scientists..
A recent Union of Concerned Scientists survey of Environmental Protection Agency staff scientists found that 60% reported political interference in their work during the last five years. Others witnessed political appointees misstating scientific results or selectively choosing which results to discuss so as to support political decisions. The intrusion was greatest in those corners of the agency that surprise! write new regulations or conduct the risk assessments that justify new regulations.
Previous investigations have found the same basic picture at every other federal agency investigated, from the FDA and NASA to NOAA and the Fish and Wildlife Service. A chorus of scientists has expressed dismay at the disrespect science gets under the Bush Administration. And EPA staff have repeatedly been overruled by their political masters when it comes to a wide range of decisions, from how best to regulate mercury and how much smog is too much to whether the EPA can or should regulate greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles.
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