Pruitt staffers worried about toxic chemical in his desk

Pruitt staffers worried about toxic chemical in his desk
© Greg Nash

Former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA eases permitting for modifications to polluting facilities | Rocky Mountain National Park closed due to expanding Colorado wildfire | Trump order strips workplace protections from civil servants EPA eases permitting for modifications to polluting facilities Overnight Energy: Barrett punts on climate, oil industry recusals | Ex-EPA official claims retaliation in lawsuit | Dems seek to uphold ruling ousting Pendley MORE's nearly $10,000 office redecoration included the purchase of a desk his staffers feared was contaminated by a toxic chemical.

Email interactions between EPA staffers first reported by Politico on Friday, showed that aides worried about the potential health effects of formaldehyde found in the desk. The fears they raised came just months before the EPA blocked the release of a report highlighting the dangers of formaldehyde exposure in drinking water.


According to the emails released through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to American Oversight, staffers worried about a safety warning placed on the desk from California — which classifies formaldehyde as a carcinogen.

Staffers were so concerned about the warning that acting deputy chief of staff Reginald Allen reached out to an EPA career official serving as acting head of EPA's toxic chemicals office for advice.

"Sorry to bother you with this but we need some help. The desk the Administrator wants for his office from Amazon has a California Proposition 65 warning. What I am asking is can someone in your area tell us whether it is OK to get this desk for the Administrator related to the warning?" Allen wrote on April 7 to Wendy Cleland-Hamnett and one other career official.

Cleland-Hamnett told Allen in the exchange that the desk was likely put together with glue that contained formaldehyde.

It's unclear whether that desk was ultimately purchased for Pruitt's office.

The Hill first reported in May that Pruitt spent at least $9,600 on items that included a refurbished desk and a standing "captains" desk.