Dourson’s Defeat a Big Win for Public Health

There were plenty of good reasons to oppose President Trump’s nomination of Michael Dourson to oversee chemical safety at the Environmental Protection Agency. Dourson, who was opposed by public health, reproductive health, labor, business and environmental organizations, withdrew his nomination Wednesday.

For decades, Dourson has been the chemical industry’s favorite scientist-for-hire. Companies like Dow, DuPont and Koch Industries know they can count on Dourson to argue for weaker safety standards for chemicals linked to cancer, infertility and brain damage. Often he has argued for safety standards that are 10, 100 or even 1,000 times weaker than the standards proposed by regulators.  If confirmed, Dourson would have been reviewing many of the same chemicals he had previously defended for industry.

Many of those chemicals – including TCE, a known carcinogen – fouled the drinking water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., cited the threat posed to military families among the reasons he could not support Dourson.

It’s not the first time Burr has put public health first. When contaminated food poisoned Americans a decade ago, Burr and former Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., defied their party leadership to help Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., enact sweeping food safety reforms. When the military families threatened by water pollution at Camp Lejeune needed a champion, Burr has stepped up again and again to make sure they receive health benefits.

At a time when America is increasingly divided along party lines, Burr broke with the Trump administration to put public safety first. He deserves our thanks. 

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