Environmental Cardiology: Getting to the Heart of the Matter

Bob Weinhold

Environ Health Perspect. 2004;112(15) 

In This Article

Reaching a Regulatory Threshold

Given the relatively early stages of wide-scale research into the links between chemicals and CVD, it likely will be some time before any regulations change. "I wish new science were incorporated more rapidly, but I'm not kidding myself that the EPA is going to hop to it on this one," says Gina Solomon, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council and a practicing physician.

Greg Dana, vice president of environmental affairs with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, hopes she is correct. He says that vehicle pollution, which accounts for a large part of the environmental load of particulates and other air pollutants, has already been addressed enough. "There's a pretty big onslaught of rules and regulations in coming years that will take care of a lot of emissions," he says. "Hopefully we've addressed whatever concerns are being raised."

Dana points to a number of emissions regulations set to phase in over the next several years. Federal "Tier 2" regulations set by the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 will phase in between 2004 and 2009, and will reduce car and light truck emissions by 80% over today's cars. Beginning in model year 2007, Tier 2 regulations will reduce heavy-duty vehicle nitrogen oxide emissions by 90% and particulate emissions by 95%. Both of these rules also contain provisions to remove sulfur from gasoline and diesel fuel. In addition, "maximum achievable control technology" standards are now final for 110 industry categories covering almost all business sectors in the country to control air toxics. "These are three of the biggest [rules], but there are others that will reduce emissions even more," Dana says.

If additional regulations are adopted, they might address concentrations of allowable exposure, time period of exposure, and vulnerable populations, says Farland. He notes the EPA is already incorporating some CVD concerns into discussions about the next-generation fine particulate standard under consideration (which will be published as a proposal by 31 March 2005 and finalized by 20 December 2005). Guallar also notes that environmental cardiology research might shift cost-benefit calculations used in assessing new regulations.

Although the regulatory outlook is unpredictable, and much of the science and medicine is in its early stages, the rapidly expanding evidence appears to be carrying the newly recognized field of environmental cardiology into ever-widening areas of influence. Says Pope, "It's remarkable what's happened in the last five to six years. I think we're making a lot of progress."


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