During a Senate hearing in late January, Ed Markey asked then-EPA director Scott Pruitt about a little rumor that he’d overheard. “It’s my understanding,” the Massachusetts senator said, “that the EPA has finalized its conclusion that formaldehyde causes leukemia and other cancers and that [the] completed new assessment is ready to be released for public review, but is being held up.”
“You know, my understanding is similar to yours,” Pruitt replied.
Formaldehyde is one of the most ubiquitous industrial chemicals in the United States. It’s in much of the wooden furniture that Americans sit in, the body wash they clean themselves with — and, for those who live in the vicinity of a major refinery, the air that they breathe. And here, the director of the agency responsible for protecting the American people from toxic chemicals was saying, under oath, that he was vaguely aware of a report linking formaldehyde to a variety of terminal illnesses.
If that report were released — and its findings independently verified by the National Academies of Sciences — then the EPA would strengthen restrictions on the chemical’s use, while cancer patients could draw on the findings in class-action lawsuits. The effect of all this would be to force industry to reduce its reliance on formaldehyde — and thus, to reduce the number of Americans who suffer from the ravages of Leukemia, nose and throat cancer, and a variety of less severe respiratory ailments.
Pruitt promised to follow up on the matter — but never did. And on Friday, a blockbuster report from Politico offered some insight into the cause of the EPA’s silence.
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