Over 100 Organizations Across the US Oppose Michael Dourson for the EPA
Dear Chairman Barrasso and Ranking Member Carper:
On behalf of our millions of members and the American people, the undersigned 109 organizations urge you to stand up for our health and environment by opposing the nomination of Dr. Michael Dourson for the position of Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention of the Environmental Protection Agency.
The job of the Assistant Administrator is to lead the office whose mission is to protect American families and the environment from the potential risks of pesticides and toxic chemicals. This position will shape the way that the United States manages its environmental and chemical programs and thus will have a significant effect on the lives of millions of Americans. In particular, the next Assistant Administrator will be responsible for implementing and enforcing the laws designed to safeguard our health from toxic chemicals. This includes the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), recently updated and amended by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. The new law was signed on June 22, 2016 with the intention and hope that the updated requirements would be a beacon for change in the management of toxics and chemical safety.
Implementation of the 2016 TSCA amendments is a significant and challenging task. It must be undertaken by someone who not only demonstrates through their actions and accomplishments a commitment to human and environmental health, but also by someone who is committed to implementing and enforcing the law as written without influence from the regulated industries that may have an interest in seeing the law weakened or poorly enforced. Dr. Dourson’s background indicates that he is not the person for this job.
Dr. Dourson’s work consulting for the chemical industry during the last few decades raises significant concerns. First, he has a history of serving the interests of big business and industry dating back to the inception of the non-profit he founded and directed, Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment (TERA). Examples of TERA’s questionable bias include:
- In 1997, Dr. Dourson was hired by the Center for Indoor Air Research, which was later disbanded by a judge who found it to be a tool to bolster the credibility of tobacco products, to produce a report on the effects of secondhand smoke, which is known to cause cancer even in people who don’t smoke. The report downplayed the effects by reporting that nonsmokers in the workplace have minimal exposures to secondhand smoke.
- In 2002, DuPont sought out Dr. Dourson’s firm TERA to recommend to West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection a “safe” level for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a chemical made by DuPont and linked to cancer, thyroid disease, and obesity. His firm recommended a level that, as reported in The Intercept, was “150 times higher than the maximum safety level DuPont’s own scientists had determined in 1988 —1 [part per billion] — based on internal company research showing that PFOA was toxic to both workers and lab animals.” The EPA later conducted its own assessment which determined a level that was thousands of times more protective than TERA’s recommended level. PFOA has also contaminated rivers and drinking water in Ohio, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Vermont, West Virginia and other communities around the country.
- An email revealed in The Intercept demonstrates how chemical companies hired Dr. Dourson to “bless” their dangerous chemicals:
While everyone had a few names to offer, the common theme that emerged was that TERA (i.e. Mike Dourson) was the leading choice. TERA had “a very good reputation among the folks that are still in the business of blessing criteria,” [DuPont employee Timothy] Bingman explained, going on to describe the company’s ability to “assemble a package and then sell this to EPA, or whomever we desired.”
-“Trump’s EPA Chemical Safety Nominee Was in the ‘Business of Blessing’ Pollution”, The Intercept, July 21, 2017.
- In 2013 Dr. Dourson was hired by Koch Industries to produce a study that found no adverse health effects to residents in Chicago who were concerned about piling amounts of petroleum coke (petcoke) from Koch subsidiary KCBX Terminals. Dr. Dourson’s findings were based on soil studies and use of KCBX air monitors showing that petcoke soil is no different in the neighboring community than baseline levels in the rest of Chicago, and that the level of air contaminants are not likely to cause health effects. However, research by the city of Chicago and residents’ own documentation of petcoke on their properties contradicted Dr. Dourson’s findings. A class action lawsuit was ultimately settled for $1.4 million.
- Dr. Dourson also published a report in 2014 entirely funded by a polluting company to study 1,4 dioxane, one of the first ten chemicals being reviewed under the revised TSCA by the office he has been nominated to lead. PPG Industries, responsible for discharging the chemical and contaminating Ohio’s waterways, hired Dr. Dourson to publish a paper on the chemical. The paper argued for an acceptable level of 1,4 dioxane that is 1,000 times higher than EPA’s drinking water guidelines. The methodology Dr. Dourson used in his assessment of 1,4 dioxane was rejected by a panel convened by the state of Michigan.
We are not only concerned about Dr. Dourson’s ties to the chemical and tobacco industries, but by the role he played in presenting industry-biased science in a seemingly neutral manner to alleviate concerns about their products. For example, Dr. Dourson administered a website designed for parents called “Kids + Chemical Safety” that minimized the concern of chemical risks using chemical industry talking points. Another example of downplaying concerns about chemical risks includes the “Tox Topics” webpage of the Toxicology Education Foundation, led by Dourson and funded by companies like Chevron, ExxonMobil, 3M, and the chemical industry’s trade association.
The importance of this job is best defined by the imperative to protect our health. This is made clear by tragic personal stories including the West Virginia residents who lost their drinking water due to the 2014 Elk River Spill; the parents in Flint, MI worrying about the effects of the lead in their water on the IQ and brain development of their children; the farmworkers in Bakersfield, CA poisoned by chlorpyrifos; and the family of 18-year-old Jonathan Welch who died on the job from exposure to methylene chloride. Whether and how potentially dangerous chemicals enter the marketplace is a matter of life and death. We can’t leave those decisions to someone with Dr. Dourson’s history of close ties to the chemical industry.
As organizations committed to the health of the American people, we are deeply concerned with the nomination of Dr. Dourson as the Assistant Administrator.
We need and deserve an Assistant Administrator for EPA’s toxics office who will put public health first, without favoring the industry that the office is charged with regulating. We urge you to oppose the nomination of Mr. Dourson and insist on a nominee with an unblemished record of defending the health of the American people from the hazards of toxic chemicals.
Alaska Community Action on Toxics
Alliance for Appalachia
Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments
As You Sow
Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization
Blue Green Alliance
Breast Cancer Action
Breast Cancer Prevention Partners
Build A Better Planet
Cape Fear River Watch
Capital District Against Fracking
Center for Environmental Health
Center for Health, Environment & Justice
Center for International Environmental Law
Central California Environmental Justice Network
Citizens’ Environmental Coalition
Clean and Healthy New York
Clean Production Action
Clean Water Action
Clean Water Action California
Clean Water Action Connecticut
Clean Water Action Massachusetts
Clean Water Action Minnesota
Coalition for Clean Air
Collaborative on Health and the Environment
Comit Civico del Valle
Communications Workers of America
Community Food and Justice Coalition
Conservation Voters for Idaho
Del Amo Action Committee
Empire State Consumer Project
Environmental Advocates of New York
Environmental Health Strategy Center
Environmental Justice and Health Alliance
Environmental Working Group
Farmworker Association of Florida
Food & Water Watch
Fresnans against Fracking
Friends of the Earth
Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA)
Grassroots Environmental Education
Great Neck Breast Cancer Coalition
Green Inside and Out
Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice
Health Care Without Harm
Health Professionals and Allied Employees
Healthy Building Network
Healthy Legacy Coalition
Healthy Schools Network
Hillsborough Clean Investment Coalition
Hip Hop Caucus
Huntington Breast Cancer ACTION Coalition, Inc
International Center for Technology Assessment
League of Conservation Voters
Learning Disabilities Association of America
Learning Disabilities Association of Georgia
Learning Disabilities Association of Illinois
Learning Disabilities Association of Maine
Learning Disabilities Association of New Jersey
Learning Disabilities Association of South Carolina
Learning Disabilities Association of Tennessee
Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware
Los Jardines Institute
Marin City Parent Academy
Natural Resources Defense Council
Nontoxic Certified / Made Safe
North Carolina Conservation Network
Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance
Oregon Environmental Council
People for Clean Air & Water of Kettleman City
Pesticide Action Network
Physicians for Social Responsibility
Safer Chemicals Healthy Families
San Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation
Science and Environmental Health Network
Stupid Cancer, Inc.
Texas Campaign for the Environment
Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS)
The Environmental Justice Coalition for Water
The Institute of Neurotoxicology and Neurological Disorders (INND)
The Progressive Hub, Saratoga
Toxics Action Center Campaigns
Utility Workers Union of America
Vermont Conservation Voters
Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG)
WE ACT for Environmental Justice
West Berkeley Alliance for Clean Air and Safe Jobs
Women’s Voices for the Earth