(NaturalNews) Americans depend upon sound science to ensure that consumer products are safe. If there is undue influence over this science, then the public's health may be compromised.
Are there inappropriate ties between the chemical industry and expert review panels hired by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)? The EPA is charged with the responsibility of determining safe levels for a variety of chemical compounds. A congressional committee is currently investigating.
Documents have been requested from the EPA and the American Chemistry Council to investigate the roles of nine scientists who are serving on EPA panels or have served in the past. Investigations of this type are unusual. In fact, this investigation is being called a landmark investigation and far reaching effects on ethics of the entire industry are possible depending on the outcome.
The chemistry council is supportive of independent scientific research and has pledged to cooperate with the congressional request.
The lawmakers want to know why the EPA allowed certain scientists to remain on expert panels but removed a public health scientist (Deborah C. Rice) from a panel at the chemistry council's request. Rice chaired an EPA panel last year that reviewed safe levels for deca-BDE. This is a chemical used as a fire retardant in television casings and other electronics. It has been found to cause cancer in mice and is also a suspected human carcinogen.
Rice testified before the Maine legislature about the health risks associated with deca-BDE. Maine and several other states have since banned the chemical.
After Rice's panel completed its work, there was a complaint about Rice's participation on the panel. After receiving this complaint, the agency informed Rice that it was removing her from the panel. It also expunged her comments from the official record. They even went so far as to remove them from the EPA Web site.
The Chemistry Council seems to have conflicting standards with regard to chemicals and health effects because the EPA has allowed at least nine scientists who have received funding from chemical makers or expressed similar opinions about specific chemical compounds to remain on review panels.
Scientists invited to participate in review panels are routinely asked to disclose any conflicts or even perceived conflicts. EPA guidelines state that conflicts do not automatically disqualify an expert but that the agency needs to ensure that the panel contains balanced viewpoints.
An EPA spokesman said privacy issues prevented the agency from commenting on Rice or other scientists being investigated.
Rice has also declined to comment on this investigation. She has become a hero among Bush administration critics, however. They say her case is a symbol of the undue industry influence in public health regulation that has been occurring during President Bush's administration.
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