Biden chooses N.C. environmental chief to head EPA

By Greg Barnes | North Carolina Health News | December 18, 2020

Read the full article by Greg Barnes (North Carolina Health News)

“Environmental groups are hailing President-elect Joe Biden’s announcement Thursday that he has tapped North Carolina’s top environmental steward as administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The selection of Michael Regan, now secretary of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, ‘shows Biden’s commitment to rebuild EPA, protect public health and advance environmental justice,’ the national Environmental Working Group said in a statement.

Regan, 44, would become the second Black leader of the EPA, after Lisa Jackson, who held the position during President Obama’s second term.

Biden has vowed to select a diverse cabinet and to strengthen the EPA, which has faced criticism under President Trump and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist.

Biden has also said he plans to fight for strict regulations of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — collectively known as PFAS or “forever chemicals.”

Coronavirus and PFAS 

Biden’s announcement of Regan as his EPA chief came shortly after scientists attending a virtual media briefing suggested that PFAS in people’s blood may make them more vulnerable to the coronavirus and less responsive to potential COVID-19 vaccines. The briefing was hosted by the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment.

Jamie DeWitt, a toxicologist from East Carolina University, said research shows that PFAS can weaken the immune system’s response to vaccines or overstimulate the response.

After decades of use in manufacturing and consumer goods, almost everyone in America has some level of PFAS in their blood. It is used to make food packaging, stain-resistant clothing, cosmetics, firefighting foam and hundreds of other products.

Linda Birnbaum, former director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, said there is an estimated 9,000 manmade PFAS in existence, a figure that keeps increasing as scientists learn more about the compounds and industry continues to invent more of them.

Scientists are also learning more about the human health effects caused by PFAS, including a potential link to cancer, neurodevelopment disorders, suppression of the immune system and harm to the thyroid, liver, pancreas, kidneys and reproductive organs. PFAS have been dubbed ‘forever chemicals’ because they accumulate in the blood and don’t break down easily…”

This content provided by the PFAS Project.