Following the nomination of Michael Dourson to head the toxics office at EPA, lead senior scientist at EDF, Richard Denison, had the following statement.
“We are deeply concerned over the nomination of Michael Dourson to head the toxics office at EPA. Unfortunately, this nomination fits the clear pattern of the Trump Administration in appointing individuals to positions for which they have significant conflicts of interest. Dr. Dourson has extensive, longstanding ties to the chemical industry (as well as earlier ties to the tobacco industry). He also has a history of failing to appropriately address his conflicts of interest. For example:
- After the 2014 chemical spill in Charleston, West Virginia, the state hired Dourson’s company, Toxicology Excellence in Risk Assessment (TERA), to convene and manage a health effects expert panel. TERA then appointed Dourson to chair the panel and act as its only spokesperson. The panel’s report failed to disclose that Dourson and TERA had done paid work for both of the companies that produced the chemicals involved in the spill. These conflicts only came to light upon questioning of Dourson by a reporter at the panel’s news conference.
- Dourson and TERA have done extensive work on behalf of the so-called Perchlorate Study Group (PSG), which is actually comprised of producers and users of perchlorate. The work was aimed at reducing the stringency of federal standards. Dourson, who is on EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB), was asked to recuse himself from the Board’s 2013 meeting to review EPA’s work to develop a drinking water standard for perchlorate. Immediately upon doing so, Dourson provided “public” comments to the Board based on the work he had done for PSG.
- In 2012, Dourson and TERA, with funding from the American Chemistry Council (ACC), set up and ran a website called “Kids + Chemical Safety.” (This website is now inactive and TERA itself has been migrated to be a center at the University of Cincinnati.) The site was designed to look like a neutral source of advice for parents concerned about chemical safety, but instead mirrored industry talking points about its chemicals and sought to shift responsibility for ensuring safety to the consumer or parent and away from the industry.
“Dourson also has a history of undertaking work, often with significant funding from industry, to undermine public health protections and the science underlying them. For example:
- Dourson set up the Alliance for Risk Assessment, and leads its “Beyond Science and Decisions” project. Heavily funded by industry (see here and here), the project is aimed at undermining the seminal 2009 National Academy of Sciences report “Science and Decisions: Advancing Risk Assessment.
- Dourson and TERA have worked extensively for the Texas Department of Environmental Quality (TDEQ) to undermine EPA air pollution regulations.
“Dr. Dourson’s nomination comes at a critical time for the EPA toxics office, which is charged with implementing last year’s Lautenberg Act, which overhauled the ineffectual Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and passed with broad bipartisan support. That legislation was able to advance even in a highly partisan Congress because all stakeholders saw reform as needed to restore public and market confidence in our broken chemical safety system. The law struck a delicate balance between public and private interests.
“Already, however, that balance has been upset when EPA recently finalized “framework rules” implementing the new law that skewed heavily in the chemical industry’s favor. If his track record is any indication, Dr. Dourson’s nomination threatens to move us further away from health-protective implementation of the new TSCA.”
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