White House Try to Cover Up Chemical Health Assessment
What happened: The Trump administration successfully stopped the publication of a study measuring the health effects of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), a group of hazardous chemicals found in drinking water and household products throughout the United States. In an email exchanges obtained by UCS under the Freedom of Information Act, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Department of Defense (DoD) can be seen attempting to strong-arm the Agency of Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) into censoring the report because of a “potential public relations nightmare”. A day after the email, one of the EPA’s top aides met the American Chemistry Council (ACC) to discuss the EPA’s cross-agency efforts to address PFAS. The meeting raised red flags because of the ACC’s history of obstructing science-based public health protections and reputation for pressuring policymakers.
Why it matters: Studies have shown PFAS are associated with several detrimental health impacts, including decreased fertility, increased cholesterol, elevated cancer risk, interference with the body’s natural hormones, and negative effects on growth, learning, and behavior of infants and older children. Scientists may or may not agree with the ATSDR analysis, but there is no way to critique a peer-reviewed study that isn’t public. Further, any legitimate disagreements should be handled among scientists, not negotiated among political appointees.
Many of the contaminated sites are on military bases across the country and affect military families directly. Multiple Republican and Democrat Congressmen have expressed concern about the censorship and have called for the report to be released.