EPA Won’t Release Study that Says Formaldehyde—Used in Building Materials, Paints, Even Cosmetics—Causes Leukemia
Scott Pruitt’s EPA is said to be sitting on a study that concludes—for the second time—that formaldehyde causes leukemia.
Three Democratic senators wrote Pruitt on May 17, asking when the assessment will be released.
“It appears that the agency may be succumbing to pressure from industry in its attempt to delay or block the publication of the formaldehyde health assessment,” they wrote.
A 2010 study by Luoping Zhang, an adjunct professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and other researchers found that Chinese factory workers exposed to high levels of formaldehyde had an increased risk of leukemia. The EPA relied on that study in 2010 when it first concluded formaldehyde causes leukemia.
The American Chemistry Council, the industry mouthpiece, has been trying to trash Zhang’s study since then. The council sued to get the data underlying her study and funded another study, this one done by scientist Kenneth Mundt known for biased research for the tobacco industry.
Mundt, who found flaws in conclusions by the National Cancer Institute on low-tar cigarettes, also found problems with Zhang’s work. The EPA redid its assessment, the one Pruitt and other Republican appointees at the EPA are now blocking from being released.
Formaldehyde is used in building materials, insulation, glues, paints, cosmetics and dishwashing liquid. An EPA assessment that formaldehyde causes leukemia would lead to more regulation and expense for the chemical industry. The U.S. allows workers to be exposed to more formaldehyde than other countries.
Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), one of the letter signers, asked Pruitt in January when the assessment would be released. Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del.), another letter signer, asked about it in February. The third signer is Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.)
Pruitt’s staffers involved in blocking the assessment from being released include Byron Brown whose wife has been a lobbyist for an oil and gas company, Bill Wehrum who sued the agency at least 31 times as a corporate lawyer and Clint Woods who used to work for a nonprofit funded by the Koch brothers.
The Toxic Substances Control Act, passed by Congress in 1976, regulates chemicals, but it was so weak that the EPA couldn’t use it to ban asbestos. Congress amended the act in 2016 to give the agency more power to regulate dangerous chemicals by using “the best available science,” not junk science such as that practiced by Mundt and his ilk.