A Harvard study says people with long-term exposure to air pollution face heightened risks from the coronavirus.
Despite those findings this month, the Trump administration is rejecting calls for restrictions on industrial emissions the researchers say increase dangers of death or serious illness.
Andrew Wheeler, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, says the agency won't add measures to curtail airborne particles seen as damaging to lungs.
On Tuesday, Wheeler called the scientific evidence insufficient for imposing new restrictions on smokestack emissions. He said: "We believe the current standard is protective of public health."
The American Lung Association blasted the decision: Senior Vice President Paul Billings said the Harvard findings add to research that people exposed to industrial pollutants are particularly vulnerable to diseases that attack the lungs.
He said: "This pollution already kills tens of thousands of Americans every year."
Kenneth Wagner, energy secretary for oil-rich Oklahoma, praised the EPA's decision. He said maintaining emissions standards will allow industries to "plan, comply and hopefully grow after this incredibly difficult economic period."
The Harvard study reported a "large overlap" between deaths from COVID-19 and diseases from tiny particulates in industrial pollution. The study analyzed pollution levels in more than 3,000 counties in the U.S.
The Harvard professor who led the study called the EPA's dismissal of the findings "an unwise decision in light of the pandemic." Francesca Dominici said: "There has been a constant tactic over the last few years by the administration to dismiss science in general.”
But Wheeler of the EPA portrayed the researchers as critics of the Trump administration. He said, "The scientists seem to have a bias."
For Newsy, I'm Peter Hecht.
Contains footage from CNN.