EPA Risk Assessments Doctored to Mask Hazards

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Friday, July 2, 2021
Kyla Bennett (508) 230-9933

EPA Risk Assessments Doctored to Mask Hazards

Managers Remove Elements of Risk without Analysts’ Knowledge or Consent


Washington, DC — Risk assessments for new and existing chemicals have been, and still are being, improperly altered to completely eliminate or minimize risk calculations, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scientists in a complaint filed by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).  Those alterations endanger both workers and the public because the nature and extent of risks posed by these chemicals are not disclosed.

Following landmark 2016 amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act, EPA undertakes evaluation of risks from both existing chemicals as well as new substances prior to manufacture or import into the U.S. These risk assessments are the public health safety net to ensure that both workers and consumers are safe from unreasonable risks due to chemical exposure.

The request for investigation filed on behalf of four EPA scientists with EPA’s Office of Inspector General charges that civil service managers, both during and after the Trump administration, routinely accessed complete risk assessments to –

  • Delete language identifying potential adverse effects, including developmental toxicity, neurotoxicity, mutagenicity, and/or carcinogenicity;
  • Significantly revise report conclusions to indicate that there are no toxicity concerns despite significant data to the contrary; and
  • Reassign risk assessments to inexperienced employees in order to secure their agreement to remove issues whose inclusion would be protective of human health.

In every case where this type of interference has occurred, the revised assessment was no longer as protective of worker safety and the environment. Moreover, the resulting Material Safety Data Sheets lack information vital to prevent harmful exposures, such as proper handling procedures, personal protection needed, accidental release measures, first aid and firefighting measures.

The complaint asks the IG to identify all the alterations and restore the correct risk information. In addition, many of the altered risk assessment documents have been overwritten and intermediate comments have been erased in violation of EPA’s Records Management Policy.

“These alterations of risk assessments are not just artifacts of the Trump administration; they are continuing on a weekly basis,” stated PEER Science Policy Director Kyla Bennett, a scientist and attorney formerly with EPA. “All of these altered assessments need to be pulled back and corrected in order to protect both workers handling chemicals and the American public.”

Over the past several months, EPA staff scientists have raised these concerns internally, as well as filing a complaint under the agency’s Scientific Integrity Policy. Those efforts have been to little avail but have subjected the scientists to harassment from managers named in the complaints.

“EPA’s lack of accountability for scientific misconduct poses a direct danger to public health,” added Bennett, whose organization is calling for the removal of those civil service managers found responsible by the IG. “Inside EPA, scientific integrity has become an oxymoron and a cure will require a complete overhaul.”



Read the complaint summary

Examine lack of sanctions for scientific misconduct

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