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Health Highlights: Jan. 5, 2021

By HealthDay Reporter

Below are newsworthy items compiled by the HealthDay staff:

EPA Rolls Back Use of Health Studies

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has changed how it will consider evidence of harm from pollutants that opponents say could weaken public health regulations, the Associated Press reported Monday.

The new rule requires the release of raw data from public health studies whose findings the EPA uses to determine the danger of an air pollutant, toxic chemical or other threat.

Some industry and conservative groups have pushed for the so-called transparency rule, but opponents say the rule will handicap future regulation, the AP said.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler is expected to announce completion of the rule when he appears before a conservative think tank on Tuesday. The final rule was completed last week, but it has not been made public, the AP said.

In an opinion column published in The Wall Street Journal on Monday night, Wheeler said the change was in the interest of transparency.

"If the American people are to be regulated by interpretation of these scientific studies, they deserve to scrutinize the data as part of the scientific process and American self-government," he wrote.

But critics say the new rule could make the identities and details of individuals in public health studies known, which will jeopardize medical confidentiality and future studies.

"This really seems to be an attempt by Wheeler to permanently let major polluters trample on public health," Benjamin Levitan, a senior attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund, told the AP. 'It ties the hands of future administrations in how they can protect the public health."

The change might not only limit future public health protections, but "force the agency to revoke decades of clean air protections," Chris Zarba, former head of the EPA's Science Advisory Board, said in a statement.

But Wheeler wrote in his opinion column that the limits wouldn't compel the release of any personal data or "categorically" exclude any scientific work.

Larry King, Hospitalized With COVID, Out of ICU

Talk show host Larry King, who is suffering from COVID-19, is out of the intensive care unit at a Los Angeles hospital and breathing on his own, a spokesman told the Associated Press Monday.

King was admitted to the ICU on New Year's Eve and was being given oxygen but is now breathing on his own, said David Theall, a spokesman for Ora Media, a production company formed by King.

The 87-year-old shared a video call with his three sons, Theall added.

King is best known as host of the "Larry King Live" interview show that ran in primetime on CNN from 1985 to 2010.

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