The EPA is being sued for unethical human testing at its site on UNC's campus. They believe it may have been happening for about 8 years. The EPA is being sued by the American Tradition Institute for failure to protect human test objects from harmful risks. The testing center is on UNC's campus, but is not actually affiliated with the University, it only leases lab space there. Though the testing center is run by the government UNC's Biomedical Institutional Review Board must first review the experiments before they are run, also placing partial blame on the review board and UNC. The experiment that set off the investigation involved participants inhaling large amounts of a pollutant out of the air in a glass chamber. The tests were also performed on unhealthy (obese and asthmatic) persons since they would be more susceptible to the results.
Obviously, this experiment (and the others in question) are extremely unethical and should not have been passed by the review board. The experiment in question would not, under any school of thought or ethical theory, pass as ethical; especially because the risks in no way would outweigh rewards. I can see how the EPA may argue this so that it would pass a review board: that a few volunteers, hopefully briefed in what they are getting into, could donate themselves for the bettering of the population as a whole. This, however, still should have been caught and questioned by the review board and forced to be changed to another way of testing air pollution and its effect on human breathing. Also, according to scientific reports and testimony from the EPA to congress, the pollutant they tested on humans, PM2.5, is one of the most toxic substances on earth.
None of the current ethical codes would approve of this type of experiment. The only component actually followed in this case by the EPA is the informed consent. And even that is questionable since the EPA has been lying about the experiments and the conduct of them in the first place. Who knows if the test subjects actually knew what they were participating in? and Who is to say they were not mislead to believe they weren't being exposed to toxic or harmful substances? This report reflects poorly not only on the government, the EPA, and UNC, but research as a whole. Since the EPA is a government agency it is hard to say rather there will be a truly fair trial or not. Also, I'm sure university experiments and experimental facilities will be under even stricter guidelines and more intense review after this awful occurrence.