Monday, May 14, 2018

White House, EPA Block Release of Disturbing Chemical Pollution Study

If you haven't noticed, the Trump/Pence regime and its minions at the EPA are not exactly in favor of protecting the environment as displayed by an ongoing rollback of pollution control laws. Now, with the news of a White House/EPA effort to block the public from learning details of a study that shows dangerous chemical pollution problems, it is increasingly clear that protecting the lives and health of citizens are a similar low priority. Protecting chemical companies and polluters within the Department of Defense rates far higher than saving citizens from exposure to carcinogens.  The main DOD and EPA fear?  A "public relations nightmare" rather than concern for the lives of citizens and service members.  Particularly at risk of members of the military and their families on military bases. A piece in Politico broke the story which so far has remained largely under the radar.  The cover up - and the information in the blocked report - needs to be circulated and disseminated far and wide.  Given the number of military bases in Southeast, coastal Virginia, one cannot help but believe the study would have upsetting information for residents in the region. Here are highlights from the piece in Politico:
Scott Pruitt’s EPA and the White House sought to block publication of a federal health study on a nationwide water-contamination crisis, after one Trump administration aide warned it would cause a "public relations nightmare," newly disclosed emails reveal.
The intervention early this year — not previously disclosed — came as HHS' Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry was preparing to publish its assessment of a class of toxic chemicals that has contaminated water supplies near military bases, chemical plants and other sites from New York to Michigan to West Virginia.
The study would show that the chemicals endanger human health at a far lower level than EPA has previously called safe, according to the emails.
“The public, media, and Congressional reaction to these numbers is going to be huge,” one unidentified White House aide said in an email forwarded on Jan. 30 by James Herz, a political appointee who oversees environmental issues at the OMB. The email added: “The impact to EPA and [the Defense Department] is going to be extremely painful. We (DoD and EPA) cannot seem to get ATSDR to realize the potential public relations nightmare this is going to be.”
Critics say the delay shows the Trump administration is placing politics ahead of an urgent public health concern — something they had feared would happen after agency leaders like Pruitt started placing industry advocates in charge of issues like chemical safety.
Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) called the delay "deeply troubling" on Monday, urging Pruitt and President Donald Trump "to immediately release this important study."
"Families who have been exposed to emerging contaminants in their drinking water have a right to know about any health impacts, and keeping such information from the public threatens the safety, health, and vitality of communities across our country," Hassan said, citing POLITICO's reporting of the issue.
Details of the internal discussions emerged from EPA emails released to the Union of Concerned Scientists under the Freedom of Information Act. . . . . The emails portray a “brazenly political” response to the contamination crisis, said Judith Enck, a former EPA official who dealt with the same pollutants during the Obama administration — saying it goes far beyond a normal debate among scientists. Pruitt has faced steady criticism for his handling of science at the agency, even before the recent spate of ethics investigations into his upscale travels and dealings with lobbyists. In his year leading EPA, he has overhauled several scientific advisory panels to include more industry representatives and recently ordered limits on the kinds of scientific studies the agency will consider on the health effects of pollution. The chemicals at issue in the HHS study have long been used in products like Teflon and firefighting foam, and are contaminating water systems around the country. Known as PFOA and PFOS, they have been linked with thyroid defects, problems in pregnancy and certain cancers, even at low levels of exposure. [S]ome of the biggest liabilities reside with the Defense Department, which used foam containing the chemicals in exercises at bases across the country. In a March report to Congress, the Defense Department listed 126 facilities where tests of nearby water supplies showed the substances exceeded the current safety guidelines. A government study concluding that the chemicals are more dangerous than previously thought could dramatically increase the cost of cleanups at sites like military bases and chemical manufacturing plants, and force neighboring communities to pour money into treating their drinking water supplies. The HHS document at issue is called a toxicological profile, which describes the dangers of a chemical based on a review of previous scientific studies. It would carry no regulatory weight itself, but could factor into cleanup requirements at Superfund sites. Enck, the former EPA official, said she sees one troubling gap in the emails: They make “no mention of the people who are exposed to PFOA or PFOS, there’s no health concern expressed he

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