In addition to frivolously spending taxpayers’ money on multiple occasions and using his position to find his wife a job, outgoing Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt has allegedly been delaying the release of a cancer warning report.
According to The Hill, the report reveals that most Americans are exposed to enough formaldehyde in everyday life to increase their risks of getting various forms of cancer, including leukemia and nose and throat cancer.
Two people close to the issue — current and former EPA officials, respectively — told Politico that Pruitt put political appointees in place who are blocking the report’s release “every step of the way” because of fears that its release would have a negative consequence for businesses that use the chemical.
“EPA continues to discuss this assessment with our agency program partners and have no further updates to provide at this time," EPA spokeswoman Kelsi Daniell told Politico. “Assessments of this type are often the result of needs for particular rulemakings and undergo an extensive intra-agency and interagency process.”
Apparently, the appointees are withholding the report from the National Academy of Science, which is an independent panel of leading scientists who have already been paid $500,000 to review the report.
“If the administration was really keen on protecting public health, why wouldn’t they send this to the National Academy and give it a really good review?” a former EPA official asked Politico, adding that there was only one viable reason to avoid submitting the report to the panel: “You don’t want the answer.”
Back in January, Pruitt told a Senate panel that the report was finished, yet since then no public action has been taken on the review within the last five months, Politico notes.
The publication also obtained internal documents that indicate the American Chemistry Council (ACC) has been lobbying for the EPA to not release the report “prematurely.”
“As stated in our meeting, 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,” wrote Kimberly Wise White of the ACC.
Democrats are pushing back against the EPA’s lack of transparency and challenging the agency to “move past politics.”
“Because formaldehyde can be found in everything from wood products to women’s hair straighteners, the public health risks are substantial,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) said in a statement. “Delaying the EPA’s latest assessment of the health risks of formaldehyde only further endangers the health of Americans.”
With Pruitt stepping down now, he is likely to leave this issue for his successor to resolve. And, hopefully, his replacement cares enough about Americans’ health and safety to move this report forward along with any other pressing findings the public deserves to know. But that may be wishful thinking.