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March 04, 2019

Members Urge EPA to Complete Formaldehyde Health Assessment, Open Investigations on Compliance with Agency’s Scientific Integrity Policy, and Political Appointee’s Potential Ethics Violation

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) joined with Democrats on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-DE) and Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Ed Markey (D-MA), in sending letters to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler and EPA’s Scientific Integrity Officer Francesca T. Grifo, Ph.D., asking that EPA complete and release its long-awaited Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) health assessment of formaldehyde, investigate whether the Agency’s efforts to prevent the completion of the formaldehyde health assessment constituted a violation of the agency’s scientific integrity policy, and determine whether an EPA political appointee violated the terms of his recusal agreement by participating in efforts related to the IRIS formaldehyde health assessment. EPA’s scientific integrity policy “prohibits all EPA employees, including scientists, managers, and other Agency leadership, from suppressing, altering, or otherwise impeding the timely release of scientific information.”

“EPA’s continued efforts to delay the publication of a report that describes the risk of cancer associated with exposure to formaldehyde will do nothing to eliminate or reduce that risk. Moreover, delaying this report only serves to further erode the public trust in the Agency whose mission is to protect human health and the environment,” the Members wrote in a letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “We urge you to immediately proceed to review, finalize and publish the formaldehyde health assessment without further delay, new studies, and taxpayer expense.”

Documents obtained by the Members (which can be read hereherehere, and here) describe efforts by the Agency to halt work on the formaldehyde health assessment and also suggest that Mr. David Dunlap, a political appointee in the Office of Research and Development who is recused from working on the formaldehyde health assessment, may have directed or participated in EPA’s decision to reduce the number of chemicals that will be assessed under IRIS and cease work on the formaldehyde health assessment.

“We additionally request that EPA’s Designated Agency Ethics Official determine whether Mr. Dunlap has violated his recusal agreement, which prevents him from working on EPA’s formaldehyde risk assessment because of his past role at Koch Industries (which has worked with other producers and users of formaldehyde to frequently criticize EPA’s formaldehyde efforts),” the Members asked in the letter.

The letter to EPA Administrator Wheeler can be found here.

The letter to EPA Scientific Integrity Official Grifo can be found here.