Are Chemical Companies Hiding Toxic Evidence?

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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?”

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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