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The past year has seen climate change deniers like Rick Perry and Scott Pruitt plague the Environmental Protection Agency’s programs. President Trump has continued this pattern, nominating Michael Dourson as the EPA’s Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention director.
Dourson is an American toxicologist who teaches in the Risk Science Center at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. Considering his research background with chemicals in the environment, he seems like an ideal candidate.
However, according to Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat from Illinois, “Dr. Dourson has a long track record of manipulating scientific research for profit to benefit corporate interests at the expense of public safety.” Businesses such as Koch Industries have repeatedly funded Dourson’s research on the chemicals they produce. Dourson has acted as a surrogate for corporate interests, pushing for looser legal limits for chemical exposure, instead of tending to the public’s needs.
So what does this mean for the American people? It means the potential head of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention has financial interest in lying about the dangers of chemicals in industrial products. In one instance of Dourson’s malpractice, three of the chemicals Dourson supported as “safe” were proven dangerous. The chemicals —Perchlorate, Trichloroethylene (TCE) and 1,4-Dioxane — are all listed within the top 10 “priority emerging contaminants,” meaning these chemicals have not been researched enough to determine the magnitude of environmental liabilities on a massive scale.
Many environmentalists and scientists do not support Dourson’s potential role in the EPA, and Dourson remains unendorsed by any credible public health organization.
This nomination is no longer an issue of political affiliations but a concern for the health of the American people. With Dourson’s close connections to the chemical industry, the notion that unbiased policy with a focus on the safety of the people seems farfetched for this candidate. If unsafe chemicals are deemed safe by Dourson in office, people of all political affiliations will be affected.
The concern with Dourson is no longer a partisan issue. In fact, in a recent poll, more than half of respondents — 54 percent — opposed confirming Dourson to the chemical safety post.
Again, the United States finds itself in a compromise of public health and safety out of the inability to collaborate across party lines in the Senate. When factual evidence of the dangers in these chemicals for human health is evident, industries should not be able to pay off public policy makers. As we look toward the future of the EPA, Dourson’s confirmation by the Senate echoes a solemn plea from the American people to place qualified and unbiased candidates in the positions regarding our health and safety.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Lauren Goldfarb at firstname.lastname@example.org.