A congressional committee is investigating links between the chemical industry and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) expert review panel, to help determine safe levels of a variety of chemical compounds. Documents from the EPA and American Chemistry Council are being used to probe the jobs of nine scientists currently on the EPA panel and those who have served on the panel in the past. The committee is trying to see how much the chemistry council has paid lawyers, consultants, scientists and a scientific journal to attempt to affect public policy. They are also scared the chemical industry has stacked EPA panels with people paid off by the chemical industry, even though scientists on the panel are supposed to disclose any conflicts of interest or perceived conflicts. The EPA guidelines, on the other hand, say the agency should have a balance of views on the panel, not views from just one side of a situation. The chemistry industry’s spokeswoman has said they will cooperate with the congressional request.
Lawmakers want to know why the EPA removed Deborah Rice, a public health scientist, from a panel at the request of the chemical industry, but let the scientists under investigation remain on expert panels. Rice was removed after her panel discovered deca-BDE, used as a flame retardant in electronics, could cause cancer. Maine and several other states banned the use of the compound. Soon after her results went public, she was removed from the panel. The Chemistry Council claims, however, that her disqualification from the panel can come as a result of scientific expertise with a particular chemical and its effects on human health. The EPA also allowed nine scientists who received funding from chemical makers or agreed with the chemical makers on certain chemical compounds to stay on review panels. One scientist has received $93,000 from the manufacturer of a compound and $230,000 from its marketer. Deborah Rice has become an example of the unnecessary industry influence in public health regulation under President Bush. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/03/AR2008040304135.html