Environmental groups call on EPA to take stronger action on reports of falsified chemical safety assessments
Six environmental organizations on Tuesday called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take more aggressive action in response to reports that an agency office manipulated assessments of chemical safety.
The allegations, first reported in July by The Intercept, originated from four whistleblowers in the EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT). The scientists alleged managers have rubber-stamped industry’s submissions for new chemicals, called pre-manufacture notices (PMNs), despite internal warnings of high toxicity for many of the submissions.
Since then, the EPA has announced two internal advisory councils and new senior-level advisory position in the office, but the organizations warned this would not properly address the issue. Signers of the letter called on the EPA to take further actions, including public condemnation of the alleged conduct, allowing public airing of scientific disputes without reprisals and an end to the practice of exclusively sharing draft assessments with submitters.
“We urge that EPA staff be sent a clear message that the alleged actions will no longer be tolerated, that scientific misconduct in the PMN program will no longer be rewarded and that the overriding goal of PMN reviews will be public health and environmental protection, not rapid approval of new chemicals in order to placate industry submitters,” they wrote.
Signers of the letter include the Environmental Defense Fund, the Center for Environmental Health and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The allegations date back to at least 2019, but disclosures relating to them are ongoing, according to Kyla Bennett, director of science policy at Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a whistleblower protection organization representing the scientists. “We had hoped that under the Biden administration they would take this seriously and make some immediate changes,” Bennett told The Hill.
Bennett added that she was pleased with the ongoing investigation by the EPA’s Office of Inspector General and “optimistic” they would recommend meaningful actions.
However, she said, “I’m really disheartened by the Biden administration and by the EPA … Our clients are exhausted, they’re trying to do their jobs.”