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Investigators Hear From Scientist EPA Fired After Chemical Lobby Pressure

For Immediate Release: 
Thursday, September 18, 2008

WASHINGTON – WASHINGTON – The Environmental Working Group (EWG) welcomed today’s House Energy and Commerce Committee’s investigation of the chemical lobby’s role in pressuring the Bush administration to manipulate an Environmental Protection Agency panel reviewing the health risks of a toxic fire retardant.

 
“The Bush administration’s politicization of the EPA is more proof that it simply doesn’t believe the government should protect people from the hidden hazards around them,” says EWG senior scientist Sonya Lunder. “The collusion between EPA’s leadership and lobbyists for the $3 trillion global chemical industry is now obvious.  And it is has become an urgent threat to the health of all Americans, especially children whose bodies are still developing.”
 
Among today’s witnesses is Dr. Deborah Rice, a top toxicologist for the state of Maine, who was fired as chair of an EPA advisory panel evaluating the safety of the neurotoxic fire retardant, known as Deca.
 
Documents obtained by Environmental Working Group in March 2008 disclosed that EPA removed Rice after Sharon Kneiss, Vice President of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), a Washington-based trade association with a $119 million annual budget, complained to George M. Gray, EPA Assistant Administrator for Research and Development, that Rice had testified before the Maine legislature supporting the phase-out Deca. 
 
EPA also removed Rice’s comments from the panel’s final report that said EPA’s standard was not sufficiently protective of health.
 
Deca has been banned in Europe.   Two states, Maine and Washington, have passed legislation to ban its use, and 8 other states are at various stages of phasing out Deca.
 
A new EWG study released earlier this month, testing the blood of 20 mothers and their toddlers for Deca, found on average that the children had 3 times the levels of exposure of their mothers.
 
Children’s developing brains and reproductive systems are extraordinarily vulnerable to toxic chemicals. In the case of fire retardants, including Deca, laboratory tests in peer-reviewed studies have found that a dose administered to mice on a single day when the brain is growing rapidly can cause permanent changes to behavior, including hyperactivity.
 
The EPA and the chemical industry took the position that Rice, one of the country’s preeminent experts on the toxic fire retardant, had no business chairing the advisory panel.  Yet scores of individuals with direct financial ties to the chemical industry remain on a number of different EPA advisory panels.

Testimony of Deborah Rice, Ph.D.

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EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment.

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