EPA fails to disclose health risks to the public

Oh EPA, can’t you do anything right these days?

A recent investigation by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found that the federal agency is guilty of yet another misdeed: hiding new information about chemicals that may pose a risk to human health.

Under the Toxic Substances Control Act, companies must disclose to the EPA any new health information they have about chemicals they use. The EPA is then required to notify the public of these risks so that consumers can stay informed of the latest information about chemicals in their products or local environments.

The EPA, however, hasn’t been doing much informing.

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The newspaper examined more than 2,000 filings in the EPA’s registry of dangerous chemicals for the past three years. In more than half the cases, the EPA agreed to keep the chemical name a secret. In hundreds of other cases, it allowed the company filing the report to keep its name and address confidential.


The EPA’s rules are supposed to allow confidentiality only “under very limited circumstances.”


Legal experts and environmental advocates say the practice of “sanitizing,” or blacking out, this information not only strips vital information from the public, it violates the agency’s own law.

So much for the public’s right to know. In fact, what the public doesn’t know about chemicals spewed into the environment by corporations is downright scary.

More from the Journal Sentinel:

One report, posted by an unnamed company about an unnamed chemical, shows that if the substance is inhaled, it produces “foamy macrophages” or diseased cells, in the lungs of rats. The report also indicates the chemical may cause pulmonary fibrosis—a deadly and irreversible disease in people.


There is no way to know if this is a chemical coming out of a smokestack in some town or a concern for workers at a factory. The write-up does not say where the chemical is produced or used. Nor is there any indication in the description of what this chemical is or how it works.

So some chemical, somewhere, being produced by some company, could be mutating our cells or causing severe respiratory diseases. Sounds more like the plot of a doomsday sci-fi movie than a situation the federal government knowingly supports.

We’d like to say that this is the only example of malfeasance within the EPA, but as any regular reader of this blog knows, that’s not the case. The flailing federal agency has been riddled with allegations that it panders to corporate interests, most recently in the case of Clean Water Act violations.

Luckily, a new administration will be sworn in in less than a month. Hopefully Obama’s pick to head the EPA, Lisa Jackson, will whip the agency into shape and create an EPA that actually protects the environment—even if it means holding major corporations accountable for their un-eco actions.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Post a comment

Issue 25

Sign up for Plenty's Weekly Newsletter