Are Chemical Companies Hiding Toxic Evidence?

| Thu Jun. 2, 2011 4:23 PM EDT

Ever wonder what kinds of chemicals make their way into your bloodstream? Good luck finding out. According to a new investigation by the Environmental Working Group, US chemical companies aren't reporting studies on levels of toxic pollutants in people's bodies—and the EPA is letting them get away with it.

Under the federal Toxic Substances Control Act, the EPA can make companies submit health and safetly reports and notify the government if they come across evidence that chemicals could be putting people at risk. But the EWG suspects that the agency hasn't been exercising this power: When researchers searched public EPA databases containing more than 50,000 industry-sponsored health studies, they found only "a scant number" about chemical exposures, and even fewer on kids' exposures.

In a press release, the EWG offered a blueprint for future action by acknowledging one instance in which the EPA did crack down on a chemical company. In 2004, it fined DuPont $16.5 million after the company hid evidence that workers at a West Virginia plant had been exposed to perfluorooctanoic acid, a chemical that has been linked to birth defects.

Academics and government scientists routinely conduct various biomonitoring tests because of these sorts of risks. That prompted EWG president Ken Cook, in a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson (PDF), to ask: "Logically, the chemical industry should be conducting the same basic studies to understand the safety of its chemicals for the public. And if not, why not?"