Energy & Environment

EPA employees allege changes to assessments that downplayed chemical risks

The Environmental Protection Agency headquarters is seen in Washington, D.C., on June 3
Greg Nash

Four Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employees are alleging that managers in the agency’s chemicals office changed safety assessments in a way that downplayed the risks posed by these substances. 

In a request for investigation to the EPA’s internal watchdog made public late last week by the group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the four scientists alleged that there were “numerous instances” where their risk assessments were changed. 

They alleged that these changes included deleting language identifying potentially adverse impacts and “major” revisions that changed conclusions to indicate that there aren’t toxicity concerns “despite data to the contrary.”

The request highlighted specific instances, alleging that in one incident the dose considered safe for a certain chemical was increased nearly 10,000-fold and that in others they pushed to remove language stating cancer and neurotoxicity concerns. 

The request indicated that the issues aren’t necessarily tied to one administration, beginning prior to the Trump administration and continuing both during it and into the Biden administration. 

“Significantly, our clients attest that the problems in OCSPP are not due solely to the Trump Administration and its appointees. The issues faced by our clients occurred prior to Trump taking office, throughout the Trump years, and continue under the current administration,” said an attached letter by Tim Whitehouse, executive director of PEER, which is representing the scientists. 

The allegations come after EPA Administrator Michael Regan has said the agency would look into interference in science, particularly that occurring during the previous administration. 

In response to the allegations, EPA spokesperson Tim Carroll shared a statement saying that the administration is “committed to investigating alleged violations of scientific integrity.”

“It is critical that all EPA decisions are informed by rigorous scientific information and standards,” the statement said. “EPA’s scientific integrity official and scientific integrity team members will thoroughly investigate any allegation of violation of EPA’s scientific integrity policy that they receive and work to safeguard EPA science.” 

“EPA leadership are reviewing these complaints, and any appropriate action will be taken,” it continued. 

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