EPA sitting on warnings about cancer-causing chemical: Report


The Environmental Protection Agency is suppressing a bombshell report warning that most Americans inhale enough formaldehyde vapor to risk developing leukemia or other diseases, a former agency official and a current one told Politico.

A draft health assessment of the chemical was finished before Donald Trump became president — yet the EPA has yet to release the findings.

“They’re stonewalling every step of the way,” said the current EPA official, who was not named by Politico. The officials was referring to the formaldehyde study as well as other assessments of chemicals by the agency’s scientifically independent Risk Information System.

Former EPA head Scott Pruitt, who resigned Thursday in the face of multiple ethics investigations, was asked about the assessment at a Senate hearing back in January.

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White House Communications Director Hope Hicks reportedly announced her resignation after testifying about her job and being required to tell "white lies."

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Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned from his position on July 5, 2018 after a number of ethics scandals.

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Rob Porter resigned as White House staff secretary in February 2018 amid abuse allegations made by his ex-wives.

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was fired by President Trump in March 2018.

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H.R. McMaster was replaced by John Bolton as national security advisor in March 2018.

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White House aide Kelly Sadler left her position in June 2018 after reportedly mocking Sen. John McCain.

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Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn announced his resignation in March 2018 after becoming a key architect of the 2017 tax overhaul 

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Sally Yates was fired from her post as acting attorney general when she refused to enforce President Trump's travel ban. 

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Michael Flynn resigned as national security adviser in February after misleading Vice President Mike Pence about his interactions with Russian officials. 

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President Trump announced David Shulkin was out as secretary of veterans affairs by sending a tweet announcing he had nominated his personal physican, Ronny Jackson, to replace him on March 28, 2018.

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Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in early May.

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Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer resigned in July.

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Former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus resigned in July.

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Former advisor to President Donald Trump Steve Bannon resigned in August.

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Anthony Scaramucci, former White House communications director was fired in July after just 10 days on the job. 

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Trump fired Deputy Chief of Staff Katie Walsh amid White House leaks in April.

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Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price resigned in late September. 

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White House aide Omarosa Manigault insists she resigned and was not fired from her role in December 2017.

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President Trump fired U.S. Attorney in Manhattan Preet Bharara in March.

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Mike Dubke resigned as White House communications director in late May.

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Walter Shaub, former Director of the United States Office of Government Ethics in Washington, DC resigned in July.

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White House deputy assistant Sebastian Gorka resigned in August 2017. 

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Rick Dearborn, White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative Affairs, left the White House in December 2017.

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“It’s my understanding that the EPA has finalized its conclusion that formaldehyde causes leukemia and other cancers,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) told Pruitt. The EPA chief responded: “You know, my understanding is similar to yours.”

Keeping the health assessment under wraps is yet another demonstration that the EPA, increasingly peopled by political appointees with corporate connections, appears more concerned about shielding industries than protecting the environment, and the health of Americans from toxic chemicals. 

Formaldehyde is one of the most commonly used chemicals in the nation. It’s used in wood composites in furniture and cabinets, as well as in cleaning products and cosmetics, and is spewed into the air by oil refineries. Formaldehyde can be inhaled as a gas or vapor or it can be absorbed through the skin in liquid form, according to the National Cancer Institute. The federal Centers for Disease Control says that formaldehyde is “known to cause cancer.”

Release of the EPA’s health assessment — followed by verification by the National Academies of Sciences — could trigger new regulations concerning the chemical and could also bolster lawsuits against companies from people suffering ill effects from formaldehyde. 

But the American Chemistry Council’s Formaldehyde Panel, an industry trade group than includes Exxon Mobil, has been lobbying the EPA to go slow on releasing the assessment.

“A premature release of a draft assessment … will cause irreparable harm to the companies represented by the Panel and to the many companies and jobs that depend on the broad use of the chemical,” said a letter obtained by Politico and written in January to EPA officials by panel representative Kimberly Wise White. 

Pruitt last year appointed White to the EPA’s Science Advisory Board even as she remains a senior director at the American Chemistry Council. Nancy Beck, who used to be on the industry council, is now a top deputy shaping the EPA’s policies on hazardous chemicals.

Markey and two other senators sent a letter to Pruitt in May expressing concern that “political appointees” were  dragging their feet on releasing the assessment as the agency was being pressured by corporations with links to people inside the EPA.

The EPA has denied it’s suppressing the document or keeping Americans in the dark about the risks they face.

The agency “continues to discuss this assessment with our agency program partners,” agency spokeswoman Kelsi Daniell said in a statement. “Assessments of this type ... undergo an extensive intra-agency and interagency process.”

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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