Administration officials within the Environmental Protection Agency are blocking a report from the public on the dangers of inhaling formaldehyde vapor, according to Politico.
The draft assessment, completed by EPA scientists shortly before the inauguration in 2017, shows that the inhalation of formaldehyde vapor puts people at risk of developing leukemia and other ailments, both a current and former agency official told Politico.
The current and former agency officials told Politico the move is part of a campaign to undermine the EPA’s independent research into the risks associated with toxic chemicals.
Though formaldehyde is found in everyday materials like wood and household products, it has been found to be highly toxic and may cause adverse health effects. The EPA considers formaldehyde a probable human carcinogen. However, this new draft assessment provides evidence of ties to nasopharyngeal cancer and leukemia.
This report comes as EPA administrator Scott Pruitt resigned on Thursday amid months of ethics controversies. Andrew Wheeler, the EPA’s deputy administrator and former coal lobbyist, will assume the position upon Pruitt’s departure.
The EPA officials told Politico that Trump appointees have canceled key briefings that would have advanced the study and placed undue requirements on officials who would begin the required internal review of the formaldehyde study.
“They’re stonewalling every step of the way,” the current official said.
According to the Politico report, EPA staffers claimed that Trump administration officials including EPA chief of staff Ryan Jackson and Richard Yamada, an official in the EPA’s Office of Research and Development, purposely worked to delay the process and revelations contained in the assessment.
But in a statement to CNN, an EPA spokesperson denied that the delays were intentional, and said they were instead caused by “needs for particular rulemakings” and “an extensive intra-agency and interagency process.”
“Mr. Yamada and Mr. Jackson have not cancelled briefings on assessments or during the IRIS process, and in fact have requested briefings,” said the spokesperson, before pointing out that there are groups skeptical of the EPA’s previous work on the subject.
“The National Academy of Science and Congress in legislative reports have for years been highly critical of EPA’s previous assessments involving formaldehyde.”
Assessments from the Integrated Risk Information System, an independent science division of the EPA that produced the report, often form the basis for federal and state regulations. In 2016, the Toxic Substances Control Act created a “mandatory requirement for EPA to evaluate existing chemicals with clear and enforceable deadlines” and mandated “risk-based chemical assessment.”
An EPA official who spoke to CNN describes the formaldehyde study as being at “stage 1 of a 7 stage process,” and said the report is simply not ready for public consumption. According to the official, analysts are going over thousands of pages of documents in an effort to “get the science right.”
The administration’s handling of the formaldehyde study has come under scrutiny in the past, prompting an inquiry by Democratic senators in to its whereabouts. In January, Pruitt testified before a Senate panel that the study was nearly complete. In May, Sens. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Rhode Island’s Sheldon Whitehouse and Delaware’s Tom Carper penned a letter to Pruitt asking about the delay, expressing concern that they had received no response from the administration in months. Markey claims in the letter than his office contacts the EPA every two-three weeks about the release of the study.
The EPA official could not explain to CNN why Pruitt told senators in January the report was “near completion” if it is still only in its first stage.
“Because formaldehyde can be found in such everyday items as furniture and personal care products, health risks are substantial.” Markey said in a statement to CNN regarding the new revelations of the delay.
“Delaying the EPA’s latest assessment of the health risks of formaldehyde only further endangers the public’s health. The EPA should move past politics and focus on its job of protecting Americans’ health.”