Quantcast
Popular
Antoine2K / Shutterstock

EPA Chemical Safety Nominee Is a Hired Gun for Tobacco and Chemical Industries

By Jack Pratt

For decades, a weak law left Americans at risk from toxic chemicals in everyday products such as cleaners and fabrics. As a result, chemicals tied to infertility, learning disabilities and even cancer found their way into all our homes, schools and workplaces.

A turn-around looked likely in 2016 when Congress passed a strong, bipartisan law to overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act to better protect our health. The agency charged with carrying out the new law hit the ground running and was making good progress.


That is, until a new president was elected and new leadership took over the reins at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The Trump administration first installed a top official from the main chemical industry lobbying group to oversee changes to rules that will determine how chemicals are reviewed for safety. The changes she made could undermine efforts to protect us from harmful chemicals for many years to come, according to Politico.

The push to return America to its toxic past may now accelerate with Trump's subsequent nomination of Michael Dourson to run the EPA's entire chemical safety program.

Dourson has made a career as a hired gun for the chemical industry, helping clients play down concerns over toxic chemicals with known and potentially severe health effects.

Defended tobacco and Teflon

If confirmed to the top job at the EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, Dourson will be regulating his old industry friends. It's a pattern we keep seeing with Trump's administration as the president and his appointees turn the federal government's mission to protect public health on its head.

Dourson's paid work for industry goes back several decades and includes work he did for the tobacco industry in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Also on his resume is his work involving the "Teflon" chemical PFOA, which continues to affect drinking water in places such as West Virginia, Ohio, New York and Vermont. And he worked for the manufacturer of the controversial pesticide chlorpyrifos, which Dourson defended and the Trump EPA decided not to ban despite expert calls to do so.

Dourson: Toxic toys? Kids should wash hands

Among other things, Dourson's company used industry money to develop and run a now-defunct website, "kidschemicalsafety.org," with copy penned by staff from chemical industry consulting firms who sought to put chemical hazards "into context."

The website told parents, for example, that even water can be toxic at high exposure levels, "but few people would want to ban" water.

It also played down concerns about chemicals in products such as toys, shifting the burden to parents by suggesting they make sure to read labels, keep toys out of their children's mouths, and make sure kids wash their hands after playing.

His defense: Jesus hung out with shady people, too

Of course, none of Dourson's work will come as a shock to anyone who has followed industry tactics closely. Whether professional climate deniers or big tobacco, manufacturing doubt is a well-known dark art.

The problem here is that if the Senate votes to confirm him, Dourson will speak from a government office.

Running the toxics office at the EPA is unlikely to change Dourson's outlook. After all, this is the man who defended his work for tobacco to downplay concerns about second-hand smoke by saying "Jesus hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors."

That logic may help Dourson sleep at night, but it won't provide much solace to those of us who were hoping the new law would do a better job protecting us from toxic chemicals.

Jack Pratt is the chemicals campaign director at Environmental Defense Fund.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Climate
Global warming in Iceland. Getty Images

Arctic Warming Amplifies Extreme Weather Events Globally: Wildfires, Flooding Likely to Be More Severe

Warming in the Arctic is causing the jet stream, a belt of air held "up" around the Arctic by the temperature difference between the Arctic and warmer climates, to weaken and slow.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
DWalker44 / Getty Images

Tons of Plastic Trash Enter the Great Lakes Every Year – Where Does It Go?

By Matthew J. Hoffman

Awareness is rising worldwide about the scourge of ocean plastic pollution, from Earth Day 2018 events to the cover of National Geographic magazine. But few people realize that similar concentrations of plastic pollution are accumulating in lakes and rivers. One recent study found microplastic particles—fragments measuring less then five millimeters—in globally sourced tap water and beer brewed with water from the Great Lakes.

Keep reading... Show less
Science
Gorancakmazovic / Getty Images

Blotting Out the Sun to Save the Earth? Seriously?

By Jeff Turrentine

Science fiction doesn't always stay fictional. Space exploration, robots and self-driving cars are just a few of the modern-day wonders that once existed only as plot devices or fantastical theories. Our capacity for turning science-fictional notions into the stuff of everyday life has grown with each new generation of scientists and microchips, such that more and more ideas previously deemed too far "out there" are now actually here, or at least technologically plausible.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Flames of the Simi Valley fire ravage a Southern California mountain side on Oct. 29, 2012. U.S. Air Force / Senior Master Sgt. Dennis W. Goff

'Hothouse Earth' Co-Author Says 'People Will Look Back on 2018 as the Year When Climate Reality Hit'

By Jessica Corbett

Amid a flurry of "breathless headlines" about warnings in a new study that outlines a possible "Hothouse Earth" scenario, one co-author optimistically expressed his belief that "people will look back on 2018 as the year when climate reality hit."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
Kodachrome25 / Getty Images

Roof-to-Garden: How to Irrigate with Rainwater

By Brian Barth

The average American household uses about 320 gallons of water per day, a third for irrigation and other outdoor uses. Collecting the water flowing down your downspouts in rainstorms so you can use it to irrigate in dry periods is often touted as a simple way to cut back. But setting up a functional rainwater irrigation system—beyond the ubiquitous 55-gallon barrels under the downspout, which won't irrigate much more than a flower bed or two—is a fairly complicated DIY project.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
A family wears face masks as they walk through the smoke filled streets after the Thomas wildfire swept through Ventura, California on Dec. 6, 2017. MARK RALSTON / AFP / Getty Images

How to Protect Your Children From Wildfire Smoke

By Cecilia Sierra-Heredia

We're very careful about what our kids eat, but what about the air they breathe?

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Health
Hero Images / Getty Images

Study: Children Have Better Nutrition When They Live Near Forests

Spending time in nature is known to boost mental and emotional health. Now, a new global study has found that children in 27 developing nations tend to have more diverse diets and better nutrition when they live near forests.

The paper, published Wednesday in Science Advances, provides evidence that forest conservation can be an important tool in promoting better nutrition in developing countries, rather than clear-cutting forests for more farmland.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Navy torpedo bomber spraying DDT just above the trees in Goldendale, WA in 1962. USDA Forest Service

Maternal DDT Exposure Linked to Increased Autism Risk

A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry Thursday found that mothers exposed to the banned pesticide DDT were nearly one-third more likely to have children who developed autism, Environmental Health News reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!