Former appointees of the Trump administration at the U.S. EPA interfered with the agency's work to assess the toxicity of two highly persistent and toxic industrial chemicals – PFAS and PFBS – according to a report by the EPA's internal watchdog.
The report, which the EPA’s Office of Inspector General released on March 7, 2023, highlights the EPA's oversight of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and the agency's handling of risk evaluations for hazardous chemicals as the previous administration left office.
Initially published Jan. 19, 2021, the perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS) toxicity assessment was altered at “the last minute” by appointees of President Donald Trump. PFBS is a less volatile alternative to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Biden appointees pulled the assessment of PFBS in February, republishing in April 2021 after undoing the edits of the prior administration.
However, the report reveals that senior EPA officials – not just political appointees – manipulated communications, delayed assessments and downplayed the risks associated with PFBS.
The report also highlights the EPA's failure to prioritize chemicals for review, review data consistently and meet deadlines for risk evaluations. The Inspector General's report makes recommendations to address these issues, including improving communication between EPA offices and increasing resources for the agency's chemical safety programs.
This news adds to growing concern about the impact of hazardous chemicals on public health and the environment and is likely to increase pressure on the EPA to take stronger action to protect communities from toxic chemicals.
The EPA has issued a statement acknowledging the Inspector General's findings – committing to improve the agency's oversight of hazardous chemicals. The statement also notes that the EPA is currently reviewing its TSCA program and working to improve its implementation.
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