Greatly increasing the funding and staffing of EPA’s chemicals division would certainly improve chemical oversight, observed Kyla Bennett, an ecologist and lawyer who directs science policy for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a nonprofit that supports whistleblowers and is pushing the EPA to protect consumers from PFAS in fluorinated plastic containers. “EPA doesn’t have the money, the bodies and the right expertise,” she said, nor does it have adequate time for evaluating new chemicals given a tight, statutory cutoff. The metric for success is “how many of these [approvals] they’ve gotten out in 90 days, not how well they’re protecting human health.”
“The whole system is broken,” Bennett added, due to corporate capture of the regulatory process — a dynamic she said persists under both Democratic and Republican administrations. Supervisors cycle from the agency to industry and back, and whistleblowers report that EPA managers change scientific conclusions, delete critical information and expedite approval of new chemicals to appease manufacturers.