A report by Politico reveals individuals working in Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are trying stop research on formaldehyde from being issued to the public. This delay is part of the larger goal of Trump appointees to stall scientific studies on hazardous chemicals.
Former EPA director Scott Pruitt tainted EPA advisory panels, adding individuals who work on behalf of big business interests, and forcing out members of the scientific community. The formaldehyde cover-up highlights how the EPA may be hiding information on other dangerous substances, such as the carcinogen asbestos, which causes deadly the cancer mesothelioma. There is no question that the actions of Trump’s EPA will have dire consequences for the health of Americans.
EPA Covers up Formaldehyde Dangers
Politico interviewed a current and former EPA employee who explained officials were blocking the formaldehyde report from being publicly released. This study points to serious risks that formaldehyde presents to our health on a daily basis. Inhaling the vapors increases the chance of developing leukemia, and nose and throat cancer. Formaldehyde is also very common; it’s a chemical used in some consumer goods, wood furniture, and released from refineries.
This report was finished before President Trump took office, but EPA officials appointed during his administration have stopped meetings that would have moved the study forward. The information would have consequences for the chemical industry, including more stringent formaldehyde regulations, and possible lawsuits brought by those affected with cancer. But since Trump’s EPA officials are listening to Big Business, they are willing to put profits ahead of people.
EPA and Big Business
Industry executives have long complained about the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program, which is facilitated by scientists who conduct independent studies on chemical safety. Their suggestions are used to design state and federal rules. These researchers developed the formaldehyde report, but documents from inside the EPA have revealed communications with lobbyists who work for chemical companies, pressing to revise the report or stop it from being issued.
Among these letters was one from the American Chemical Council (ACC) Formaldehyde Panel, an industry lobbying group which expressed dismay at possible higher costs due to formaldehyde regulation. The ACC spent $7 Million last year lobbying Congress about issues related to IRIS and controls on chemicals.
Unfortunately, the ACC has friends among EPA officials, such as Nancy Beck who used to work for the chemical industry, and who has long spoken against IRIS. New EPA director Andrew Wheeler, who is set to replace Scott Pruitt, also used to lobby on behalf of the fossil fuel industry and chemical companies, including ones that make formaldehyde.
Even though the EPA has paid for the National Academies of Sciences (NAS) to produce an independent opinion on the report, with officials such as Beck and Wheeler in place, this review is in jeopardy.
Congress Calls for Action
The delay has drawn attention from Democratic senators, who questioned Pruitt at a Senate meeting in January. At that time, Pruitt told them the report was “near completion.” Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) emphasized the importance of the research, saying: “Because formaldehyde can be found in everything from wood products to women’s hair straighteners, the public health risks are substantial.”
More recently, EPA officials have contradicted Pruitt, claiming the study was at “stage 1 of a 7 stage process.” There is no question that business interests have played a role in this delay, since they have a history of concealing the truth about dangerous substances, such as formaldehyde and asbestos.
Still an Asbestos Spokesperson
Trump has long claimed that asbestos is a safe building material, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. One of the most recent studies found that asbestos could kill as many as 40,000 Americans every year, much higher than previous estimates of 15,000.
Yet under Trump, the EPA has changed provisions of the newly revised Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA), so they will not consider previous uses of asbestos when determining its safety. Further, the EPA will not stop asbestos from being used in new products, counter to what the Obama Administration had planned.
Trump is recognized as an asbestos proponent by companies worldwide, including Russian asbestos manufacturer Uralasbest. In a recent Facebook post, they praised the Trump administration for keeping asbestos legal, and pictured of a block of asbestos wrapped in plastic with Trump’s picture printed in red on the label.
Uralasbest noted that Trump “supported the head of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, who stated that his agency would no longer deal with negative effects potentially derived from products containing asbestos.”
Those who now control EPA have proven how easily they can hide information on chemicals, formaldehyde being only one of them. We must demand Congress investigate this conduct, and continue our collective pressure this fall at the ballot box. Our health depends on it.