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Selected tag(s): Dourson

Dourson emails show he was paid by and worked closely with ACC when providing states “advice” on chemicals made by ACC members

Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

[Use this link to see all of our posts on Dourson.]

I blogged last week about how a trove of emails recently released by the New York Times shines a light on the cozy relationship between Michael Dourson, who just withdrew his nomination to run the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) toxics office, and the American Chemistry Council (ACC), the main chemical industry trade association. 

Dourson email to ACC staffer: "We should talk while I am still able to do so directly. I am not sure what limitations I will have with outside groups."

You might ask why I’m blogging again about these emails.  It’s because they provide a rare and fascinating inside look at how – and how closely – paid consultants, who often tout themselves to the public and state and federal agencies as independent and objective arbiters of sound science, work with industry.  In this post I’ll describe what the emails tell us about Dourson’s work with state governments – and point to a “Bcc” in one of those emails that raises a big red flag.   Read More »

Posted in EPA, Health Policy, Industry Influence, States, TSCA Reform / Tagged | Read 1 Response

A parting gift from Dourson: A trove of revealing emails

Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

[Use this link to see all of our posts on Dourson.]

Earlier this week, the New York Times reported on the withdrawal of the nomination of Michael Dourson to head the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) chemical safety office – which we applauded as a win for public health.  The Times article mentioned and provided a link to a 400-page trove of emails to and from Dourson that were obtained through a FOIA request filed in August by Greenpeace to the University of Cincinnati, where Dourson previously worked.

The emails shine a rare spotlight on a network, of which Dourson and the American Chemistry Council (ACC) are a part, that operates largely out of public view.  It involves a coordinated effort between the chemical industry and its private and academic consultants to generate science that invariably supports the safety of the industry’s chemicals, and pushes back against any regulatory and academic science that indicates otherwise.  The emails make for very interesting reading, if you can skip through the myriad emails about scheduling calls and meetings (which make up the bulk of any of our inboxes, I suspect).

To pique your interest, let me start with one email relating to Dourson’s nomination.   Read More »

Posted in Health Policy, Industry Influence / Also tagged | Comments are closed

EDF Applauds Dourson’s Reported Withdrawal from Chemical Safety Position

Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

[Use this link to see all of our posts on Dourson.]

According to press reports, the nomination of Michael Dourson to lead EPA’s toxics office is being withdrawn.

Dr. Richard Denison, Lead Senior Scientist, said, “The withdrawal of Michael Dourson’s nomination is good news for the health of American families. It was clear from the beginning that Dr. Dourson was a dangerous choice. His record of mercenary science made clear he would have undermined public health and damaged the historic chemical safety reforms passed by Congress last year.

“The administration should now nominate a person of integrity, with a demonstrated commitment to protecting public health. Dr. Dourson must now leave the EPA, and the Administration should move forward to implement the new law as it was intended. Communities from California to North Carolina will be able breathe easier knowing Dr. Dourson will not be at EPA.”

Posted in EPA, Health Policy, TSCA Reform / Tagged | Comments are closed

“Tore apart our happy home”: Another chemical embraced by Dourson and Beck is contaminating the drinking water supply in Memphis and across the country

Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

[Use this link to see all of our posts on Dourson.]

That lyric from a Chuck Berry signature song, “Memphis, Tennessee,” takes on a haunting new meaning in light of the latest evidence of contamination of the Memphis Sand aquifer, a main drinking water source for the city, with the highly toxic solvent tetrachloroethylene (also known as perchloroethylene (PCE), or more commonly PERC).  Lest there be any doubt about the human toll this is taking, read this local woman’s heart-wrenching story.

The source of PERC in this case is a former dry cleaning business that is now a hazardous waste site, and because of Sharri Schmidt’s case is now nominated to become a Superfund site.  The chemical is still widely used in dry cleaning as well as in many other uses.  It’s a probable human carcinogen, and is also toxic to the brain, kidney and liver.

As I write, Dourson and Beck are making decisions that will help determine how the risks of PERC and other chemicals are assessed and whether or not they need to be regulated.

Unfortunately, Schmidt is far from alone.  PERC contamination of drinking water is widespread in this country.  To name just a few, have a look at these stories from towns and cities in North Carolina, Indiana, Nevada, Arizona, Montana, and New York.

Data compiled by the Environmental Working Group from local water utilities shows that PERC was detected in tap water samples taken by water utilities in 44 states that serve 19 million people.

One might hope and think that affected local communities could turn to the US Environmental Protection Agency for help in such situations.  The sad truth is that under the Trump administration this may well not be the case.  Trump has nominated Michael Dourson to lead EPA’s chemical safety office, who, despite the fact that he’s yet to be confirmed, is already working at EPA as a special advisor to Administrator Scott Pruitt.  And Pruitt has already installed as a political appointee to that office Nancy Beck, who until May was a senior official at the American Chemistry Council (ACC), the chemical industry’s main trade association.

So what do Dourson and Beck have to do with PERC?   Read More »

Posted in Health Policy, Health Science, Industry Influence, TSCA Reform / Tagged | Read 1 Response

To be true to your new directive, Mr. Pruitt, you need to fire Michael Dourson today

Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

[Use this link to see all of our posts on Dourson.]

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt issued a directive today that prevents independent scientists who receive research grants from EPA from serving on any EPA advisory panels.  Wholly unaddressed by the directive is any counterpart prohibition on scientists funded by industries with conflicts of interest from serving as EPA advisors.  

If Pruitt firmly believes that receipt of EPA funding is a basis for disqualifying a scientist from advising the agency, then he need look no further for someone to purge than his own recently named “advisor to the Administrator” on chemicals, Michael Dourson.

When it comes to advice the agency receives, the core concern over the need to avoid conflicts of interest is this:  Is advice tainted because the entity employing and paying the advisor stands to gain or lose financially from the agency decision that is under advisement?  Say, for example, EPA selected as an advisor a consultant to Koch Industries who it paid for work that concluded the company’s releases into the environment of the petcoke generated by its facilities are safe.  A reasonable person would have a basis to believe that Koch could benefit financially from the advice its consultant might provide the agency.  In contrast, how does EPA stand to benefit financially from the results of research conducted by an EPA-funded scientist?  The simple answer is, it doesn’t.

Now let’s look at it from the perspective of the scientist receiving the funding.  Pruitt’s directive is based on the outlandish premise that EPA funds research in order to find problems it can then regulate, and hence that an EPA-funded researcher has an incentive to find a problem in order to better ensure continued EPA funding.  The claim is that the advice offered by that researcher would be “pre-tainted” toward supporting EPA policy decisions that drive regulation.  This theory that imagines a grand conspiracy between researchers and the agency is inherently flawed and unfounded.   Read More »

Posted in EPA, Health Policy, Health Science, Industry Influence, TSCA Reform / Tagged | Comments are closed

In 2016 industry-funded paper, Dourson and Beck sought weaker standard for lethal paint stripper chemical

Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

[Use this link to see all of our posts on Dourson.]

[See clarification added on 10-26-17 in brackets below.]

The New York Times’ investigation “Why Has the E.P.A. Shifted on Toxic Chemicals? An Industry Insider Helps Call the Shots” published this past Sunday cited evidence that Nancy Beck – a political appointee in EPA’s chemical safety office who until May was a senior official at the American Chemistry Council (ACC) – is questioning the need for EPA’s proposed rule to ban the use of the deadly chemical dichloromethane (also called methylene chloride) in paint and coating removers.  These products are responsible for dozens of deaths in recent years.

The Times’ story also noted in its last paragraph that Beck and Michael Dourson – the Trump Administration’s controversial nominee to lead EPA’s chemical safety office – are co-authors on a 2016 paper that was funded by ACC.  That paper was published in the industry’s go-to journal, Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, where Dourson has published most of his papers.

The paper is of interest and relevant for another reason as well:  Dourson and Beck assert that the acceptable risk levels EPA has set for 24 chemicals are all too stringent and should be relaxed by anywhere from 2.5 to 150 fold.  (Funny, isn’t it, how the numbers for all 24 chemicals all went in the same direction?)

Among these 24 chemicals is the paint-stripping chemical dichloromethane (aka methylene chloride).  This chemical is a particularly concerning one:  It is a likely carcinogen and is linked to numerous other chronic health impacts, but it is also acutely and tragically lethal.   Dourson and Beck call for EPA’s standard for the chemical to be relaxed to a level that is 8.3 times less protective. [Clarification added 10-26-17:  This factor applies to EPA's ingestion standard (reference dose); Dourson and Beck's proposed adjustment to EPA's inhalation standard (reference concentration) was 2.5-fold less protective.]

The Times article makes clear that, despite her prior work on this chemical while at ACC, and the fact that this chemical is made by numerous ACC companies, Beck has not recused herself from making decisions about its risk and regulatory responses – decisions that are being considered at EPA even as I write.  Indeed, as I noted earlier this week, her astounding ethics agreement gives her wide latitude to work on issues in which ACC has financial interests in order to ensure those interests are taken into account.

In Dourson’s nomination hearing held by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on October 4, he was repeatedly asked if he would, if confirmed, recuse himself from work on chemicals he had been paid by industry to work on, and he repeatedly refused to say he would do so.

One more reason that Michael Dourson should not be entrusted with our health and the Senate should reject his nomination to head EPA’s toxics office.

Just yesterday, Dourson’s nomination was voted out of the committee by an 11-10 vote.  The fight over his nomination now moves to the full Senate.

 

Posted in Health Policy, Health Science, Industry Influence, TSCA Reform / Also tagged | Comments are closed