Formaldehyde Cancer Study Blocked by EPA
Scott Pruitt turned out to be one of the most controversial and embattled figures in an abnormally controversial and embattled administration. The former head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made headlines on a near daily basis, ranging from extravagant spending, ethics violations, and cozying up to organizations that conflict with the EPA’s mission statement of protecting the environment. Scott Pruitt may have resigned from his position, but scandals continue to emerge in his wake, as Politico and other news outlets are reporting that the EPA intentionally blocked a formaldehyde cancer study.
Formaldehyde is most commonly thought of as the chemical used to preserve dead tissue during the embalming process, but it’s actually one of the most commonly used chemicals in the country. Formaldehyde is used in dozens of household products, including air fresheners, skin care products, wood furniture, and cleaning products. It has long been considered to be a probable human carcinogen, however the draft assessment being blocked by the EPA goes a step further – providing evidence of ties to nasopharyngeal cancer and leukemia.
According to Politico’s reporting, top officials within the EPA are delaying the release of the report as a part of a larger agenda to hinder the agency’s research into the health risks associated with toxic chemicals.
This wouldn’t be the first time the EPA has blocked damning scientific research from the public. In May 2018, it was reported that a long-awaited study on PFAS chemicals was being held up over concerns of a “PR nightmare.” That report, which has since been made public, recommended that the current EPA “minimal risk level” for PFAS was six times too high and should be lowered from 70 parts-per-trillion to 12 parts-per-trillion.
Despite claims from the EPA that the formaldehyde cancer study assessment needs to “undergo an extensive intra-agency and interagency process,” many critics assert that the agency is intentionally dragging their feet. Considering that the study was completed in 2017 shortly before Donald Trump took office, and the fact that Scott Pruitt testified to a senate panel that he believed the draft assessment was complete in January, it’s hard to give the EPA the benefit of the doubt.
One reason to assume the EPA is suppressing the formaldehyde cancer study should be obvious: it could disrupt a number of extremely profitable industries. The EPA would undoubtedly face pressure to impose stricter regulations on formaldehyde. Companies could be forced to research and develop safer alternatives. And undoubtedly, countless people who have been unknowingly harmed by formaldehyde could have grounds to file class action lawsuits.
Of course, none of those reasons excuse keeping potentially life saving information from the public. But as Scott Pruitt has hopefully learned during his tenure at the EPA, the truth can’t be hidden forever.