EPA Whistleblowers Provide New Evidence Of Ongoing Failure To Assess Dangerous Chemicals

By Sharon Lerner | The Intercept | August 1, 2022

Read the full article by Sharon Lerner (The Intercept)

"A group of whistleblowers has provided evidence that the Environmental Protection Agency has not adequately assessed the health risks posed by several new chemicals on the grounds that they are corrosive. Managers in the New Chemicals Division have repeatedly and incorrectly used the idea that a chemical may cause irritation to the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract as an excuse to avoid assessing the risk of other harms it may cause. Those harms include cancer, miscarriage, and neurotoxicity, according to the whistleblowers, who work as health assessors in the division. In some cases described in a complaint that the whistleblowers shared with The Intercept and will soon submit to the EPA inspector general, the risks were calculated, found to be significant, and later deleted from official documents.

The theory behind the EPA’s decision not to calculate the risk of repeated exposure to certain corrosive chemicals — or to remove information about those risks — is that after the unpleasantness of the first exposure, people will avoid contact with the chemical in the future. But according to the group of health assessors who have been providing The Intercept with insider accounts of corruption in the EPA’s chemical assessment process over the past year, this logic is flawed for many reasons. Perhaps the most significant problem is that people may not actually experience or notice any effect from an initial exposure — either because the chemical has been incorrectly deemed corrosive or because it is corrosive only at concentrations higher than the levels to which people are exposed. Neither circumstance has any bearing on whether the chemical presents other risks. Workers may also be forced to have repeated contact with chemicals to stay employed."