It’s not the nation’s most recognizable federal office: the Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Nevertheless, earlier this year, the agency put together a report of great significance – which you didn’t hear about for a reason.Federal officials uncovered a water-contamination crisis affecting several areas, with toxic chemicals reaching water supplies near military bases, chemical plants, and other sites in the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest.
Common sense suggests officials would learn of these finding and think, “Quick, let’s take action to address the problem.” Trump administration officials, however, apparently thought, “Quick, let’s make sure people don’t hear about this.”
Politico reported yesterday on Scott Pruitt’s EPA and the Trump White House taking steps in January to effectively cover up a federal health study.
The study would show that the chemicals endanger human health at a far lower level than EPA has previously called safe, according to the emails.
“The public, media, and Congressional reaction to these numbers is going to be huge,” one unidentified White House aide said in an email forwarded on Jan. 30 by James Herz, a political appointee who oversees environmental issues at the OMB. The email added: “The impact to EPA and [the Defense Department] is going to be extremely painful. We (DoD and EPA) cannot seem to get ATSDR to realize the potential public relations nightmare this is going to be.”
This, of course, helps explain why some knowledgeable officials were apparently motivated to reach out to Politico.
The article, which is worth reading in its entirety, added:
The chemicals at issue in the HHS study have long been used in products like Teflon and firefighting foam, and are contaminating water systems around the country. Known as PFOA and PFOS, they have been linked with thyroid defects, problems in pregnancy and certain cancers, even at low levels of exposure.
The problem has already proven to be enormously costly for chemicals manufacturers. The 3M Co., which used them to make Scotchguard, paid more than $1.5 billion to settle lawsuits related to water contamination and personal injury claims.
Let’s note for context that Donald Trump chose a man who helped chemical companies fight against chemical safety regulations to lead the EPA’s office of chemical safety. His nomination was later derailed, but its existence was a reminder of how this administration approaches the underlying issue.
HHS told Politico that the draft report does not yet have a release date. Imagine that.