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EPA’s Own Scientists mistrust EPA’s assessments of chemicals

The Environmental Protection Agency’s own scientists mistrust the EPA’s assessments of chemicals (such as those found in pesticides like chlorpyrifos). A majority of U.S. EPA scientists say they don’t trust the agency’s senior leaders. In addition, most of the responding scientists also fear retaliation should they be so bold as to report a law violation. These disturbing findings came from employees surveyed in 2020.

Author and journalist Carey Gillam reported that the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey for 2020 was conducted by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. She said the survey found that 75 percent of EPA workers responding in the National Program Chemicals Division indicated they did not think EPA senior leadership maintained “high standards of honesty and integrity.” Sixty-five percent of responding workers from the Risk Assessment Division answered the same way.

More than half of the respondents (53 percent) in the EPA’s Risk Assessment Division said they could not disclose a suspected violation of the law or regulation without fear of reprisal. Forty-three percent of EPA employees responding in the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) answered the same way.

According to the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the alarming findings in the survey’s results parallel mounting reports of malfeasance inside EPA’s chemical assessment programs.

Grave Concern for EPA’s Honesty

A former EPA enforcement attorney now executive director of PEER, Tim Whitehouse, said: “It should be of grave concern that more than half the EPA chemists and other specialists working on crucial public health concerns do not feel free to report problems or flag violations.”

EPA Assessments of “Critically Low Quality

Ms. Gillam also reported that earlier this month, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine said the EPA’s hazard assessment practices within the framework of the Toxic Substances Control Act were of “critically low quality.”

Mr. Whitehouse said: “EPA’s new leadership will have its hands full righting this sinking ship.”

President Joe Biden announced in January after assuming office that an executive order noting the EPA under his regime may diverge in its position on several chemicals from decisions made by EPA under President Donald Trump.

The EPA Office of General Counsel said the following in Jan. 21 correspondence :

“In conformance with President Biden’s Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis issued January 20, 2021, (Health and Environment EO), this will confirm my request on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) seek and obtain abeyances or stays of proceedings in pending litigation seeking judicial review of any EPA regulation promulgated between January 20, 2017, and January 20, 2021, or seeking to establish a deadline for EPA to promulgate a regulation in connection with the subject of any such.

That announcement would make it appear that any regulations the EPA put in place the last four years could be shortly overturned.

EPA’s Chlorpyrifos Imbroglio

A perfect example of the EPA’s dysfunctional management is the agency’s bungled handling of the pesticide chlorpyrifos. The EPA’s contradictory handling of chlorpyrifos is part and parcel of the agency’s inability to honestly regulate dangerous chemicals. The EPA banned the pesticide for home use in 2000, but then has inexplicably allowed it to remain on the market for “agricultural” use.

While many of the EPA’s own scientists have found chlorpyrifos to be too dangerous for any exposure, because there are no safe exposure levels for this neurotoxic pesticide, agency executives have nevertheless worked to silence their own scientists and keep the chemical on the market.

The EPA also ran cover for Monsanto during the Roundup litigation which showed the regulator essentially in bed with those it was charged with regulating. While scientists from the WHO, along with several other world-renowned researchers, found that Roundup with glyphosate is linked with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, some EPA scientists (like Jess Rowland) worked with Monsanto behind the scenes to delay safety reviews of Roundup. Rather than examine the wealth of studies showing problems with the Roundup cocktail, the EPA focused instead on glyphosate alone, the only named active ingredient in Roundup. Since glyphosate alone can be shown in some studies to be somewhat safe, EPA stayed focused on the isolation of the lone chemical, while nobody in the real world used, or uses, glyphosate alone. The Roundup cocktail of which glyphosate is the only listed active ingredient is many times more toxic than glyphosate alone.

This latest report which shows the EPA’s own scientists don’t feel safe to execute their duties is but one more example which shows the EPA has blood on its hands. It’s time for the agency to stop genuflecting to companies like Dow or Monsanto (now Bayer), and do the job for taxpayers that they expect and deserve.

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