Trump administration officials at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are reportedly suppressing a highly anticipated report that would warn Americans about the cancer risks that come with one of the most common chemicals in our environment.
The draft risk assessment, from the EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System, is expected to show that ingesting formaldehyde — breathing it in through car and furniture emissions, or slathering it on our skin via cosmetics — can cause leukemia and nose and throat cancers. The report was completed last fall, and slated to move on to the National Academies of Science for external peer review.
Politico broke the story today that helps explain why: Top advisers to Pruitt have been dragging their feet in order to protect the chemical industry from damning revelations that would prompt stricter regulations and possibly class-action lawsuits by cancer patients.
In a statement, an EPA spokesperson told Vox, “EPA continues to discuss this assessment with our Agency program partners and have no further updates to provide at this time. Assessments of this type are often the result of needs for particular rulemakings and undergo an extensive intra-agency and interagency process.”
But according to Politico, and a May letter from US senators to Pruitt, internal documents about the report tell a different story.
“We have learned ... that multiple political appointees within EPA have expressed reluctance to move the assessment through the agency review process, have repeatedly set up briefings on the assessment only to later cancel them, and/or have insisted that IRIS first set up briefings for industry stakeholders before completing agency review. ...
We have also learned that, at the same time as EPA political appointees’ requests were delaying the formaldehyde assessment’s movement through the agency review process, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) as well as interested corporation such as ExxonMobil have been pressuring EPA not to release the assessment for public comment as drafted.
Politico’s Annie Snider, meanwhile, reports that a trade group representing chemical businesses frequently contacted top EPA officials and asked them to avoid releasing the report: