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October 28, 2011


Washington Letter
October 28, 2011
Newsletter of the American Thoracic Society's Washington Office

1150 18th Street NW
Suite 300
Washington, D.C. 20036
Telephone:(202) 296-9770


ATS Hosts Hill Briefing on Respiratory Illness in U.S. Military

This week, the American Thoracic Society co-hosted a Congressional briefing with the Digestive Health Alliance and the Friends of VA Health Care and Research coalition on chronic health conditions in returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.  ATS member Robert Miller MD, coauthor of a recent New England Journal of Medicine case study on constrictive bronchiolitis in Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, spoke at the briefing.  Also participating in the briefing was Chief Warrant Officer (retired) J.D. Williams.  Mr. Williams served three tours in Iraq during which he was exposed to both a sulfur mine fire and burn pit fires.  Mr. Williams has since been diagnosed with constrictive bronchiolitis.  Also at the briefing was an Army veteran who is suffering from chronic vomiting syndrome.


ATS Host Briefing on Child Health and NIEHS

Also this week, the ATS cohosted a briefing with the Friends of NIEHS coalition to discuss NIEHS’s contributions to  understanding and improving children’s health.  At the briefing, NIEHS Director Linda Birnbaum and other NIEHS funded researchers discussed  NIEHS-funded research in this area and what future questions the Institute should address to make further gains in maternal and child health.


House Holds Hearing on Farm Dust

This week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on legislation to block the EPA from moving forward with stricter coarse particle matter (PM10) standards.  The legislation is sponsored by Rep.Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Rep. Robert Hurt (D-VT). While proponents of the legislation assert it simply prevents the EPA from regulating naturally occurring “farm dust,” the legislation would likely provide a broad exemption for any type of air pollution emissions, including those from mining, power plants and industries located in rural areas. 

At the hearing, two representatives from the public health and environmental community commented on the known health effects of exposure to PM10, while a number of representatives from the cattle and farming industry noted that stricter standards on PM10, or what they called “farm dust,” would create “regulatory uncertainty” and hurt the agriculture industry.

The current PM10 standard of 150 ug/m3 was established in 1987 and has not been changed in the 24 years since it was first released by the EPA.  In her comments before the committee, EPA Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy stated that her agency does not intend to issue a stricter standard and will recommend retaining the current standard when the EPA rule is issued later this year.  Despite a 24-year history of the same standard and written commitment from the EPA not to revise the standard, witnesses from the agriculture industry and their supporters in Congress claimed that the threat of any stricter standard was having a chilling effect on business and that Congressional relief was needed to prevent the EPA from taking further action to regulate farm dust.



The Washington Letter is written by the American Thoracic Society government relations office and emailed to all ATS members living in the United States. The letter keeps clinicians, scientists, and patients abreast of legislative, judicial, and regulatory issues in pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine. Each week's edition is archived on the ATS Web site, www.thoracic.org. If you have any questions or one more information about becoming involved in advocacy, please contact the ATS Washington office at 202-296-9770.