EPA Allowed Chemical Industry to Control Panel Assessing Cancer Danger in Drinking Water

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Hexavalent chromium, a cancer-causing chemical made famous by the 2000 movie Erin Brockovich, still is not subject to tough federal drinking-water standards, due to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) deferring to industry opposition.


Three years ago, the EPA seemed poised to act against hexavalent chromium after experts concluded that even trace amounts in tap water could cause cancer.


But then the American Chemistry Council (ACC)—the chemical industry’s trade association and chief lobbyist—urged the EPA to wait for more research, which the agency ultimately decided to do, delaying any decision another four years.


Why did the EPA change its mind?


The Center for Public Integrity found that a panel of scientists selected to provide an unbiased review of the chromium findings included several who had worked for Pacific Gas & Electric while it fought the Brockovich lawsuits over contaminated water supplies in California. The Center also discovered that ACC was able to force the removal of scientists that it didn’t want on the panel.


The influence of the chemical industry extends far beyond this one case, and is in fact widespread, according to the Center. Since 2009, it reports, one out of every six scientists appointed to EPA peer review panels has been a primary author of research articles funded by the ACC over the past dozen years.


So while the EPA waits for yet another study to be done on hexavalent chromium—which the industry is paying for—more than 70 million Americans continue to drink water each day containing the carcinogen.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman


To Learn More:

EPA Unaware of Industry Ties on Cancer Review Panel (by David Heath and Ronnie Greene, Center for Public Integrity)

Ouster of Scientist from EPA Panel Shows Industry Clout (by Ronnie Greene and David Heath, Center for Public integrity)

PG&E’s Bottled Water for Poisoned “Brockovich” Town Contains the Same Toxin (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

Erin Brockovich Town Faces Unfortunate Real-Life Sequel (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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