MANAGERS AND CAREER STAFF in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention tampered with the assessments of dozens of chemicals to make them appear safer, according to four scientists who work at the agency. The whistleblowers, whose jobs involve identifying the potential harms posed by new chemicals, provided The Intercept with detailed evidence of pressure within the agency to minimize or remove evidence of potential adverse effects of the chemicals, including neurological effects, birth defects, and cancer.
On several occasions, information about hazards was deleted from agency assessments without informing or seeking the consent of the scientists who authored them. Some of these cases led the EPA to withhold critical information from the public about potentially dangerous chemical exposures. In other cases, the removal of the hazard information or the altering of the scientists’ conclusions in reports paved the way for the use of chemicals, which otherwise would not have been allowed on the market.
This is the first of a series of articles based on the four whistleblowers’ highly detailed allegations, which were supported by dozens of internal emails with supervisors, meeting summaries, and other documents. Together, the evidence they provided shows a pattern in which the EPA failed to follow the law that oversees chemical regulation, particularly the Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA, and depicts a workplace in which EPA staffers regularly faced retribution for following the science.
“The Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention is broken,” the scientists wrote in a statement they provided to The Intercept and Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. “The entire New Chemicals program operates under an atmosphere of fear — scientists are afraid of retaliation for trying to implement TSCA the way Congress intended, and they fear that their actions (or inactions) at the direction of management are resulting in harm to human health and the environment.”
The four EPA staff members, who hold doctorates in toxicology, chemistry, biochemistry, and medicinal chemistry, said that they told colleagues and supervisors within the agency about the interference with their work. Each of the scientists also filed complaints with either the EPA’s inspector general or the Office of Science Integrity, which has pledged to investigate corruption within the agency. But because most of their concerns remained unaddressed months after they disclosed them — and because, in each case, the altering of the record presented a potential risk to human health — the scientists said they felt compelled to make their complaints public….