At ProPublica, Joaquin Sapien tells the story of how Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter successfully obstructed the FDA’s attempts to get formaldehyde, which has been linked to leukemia, as a known carcinogen. Right now, it’s still listed as “probable.” The industry’s favorite tool, and the one Vitter employed for them in this case, was to force the EPA into conducting yet another costly, time-consuming study.
The EPA’s chemical risk assessments are crucial to protecting the public’s health because they are the government’s most comprehensive analysis of the dangers the chemicals present and are used as the scientific foundation for state and federal regulations. But it usually takes years or even decades to get an assessment done, or to revise one that is outdated. Often the industry spends millions on lobbying and on scientific studies that counter the government’s conclusions.
Sapien’s history of Sen. Vitter’s stonewalling, as well as his ties to the formadehyde industry, are an excellent example of just how difficult it has been for the EPA to upgrade key risk assessments.
Sapien’s story is well worth reading, but those looking for an overview can also refer to his excellent timeline, that goes from the EPA’s first health assessment in 1989 to Vitter’s demand that an assessment of the chemical be reviewed by the National Academy and his subsequent block of an EPA nomination late last year.