- Apr 4, 2009
- Reaction score
How Senator Vitter Battled the EPA Over Formaldehydes Link to Cancer
Sen. David Vitter, R-La., has pushed the EPA to slow its process of updating its 20-year-old health assessment of formaldehyde. After Hurricane Katrina, thousands of his state's residents said they suffered respiratory problems after being housed in government trailers contaminated with formaldehyde. (Left: A child looks out of a FEMA trailer in Port Sulphur, La. May 2008 photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
When Sen. David Vitter persuaded the EPA to agree to yet another review of its long-delayed assessment of the health risks of formaldehyde, he was praised by companies that use or manufacture a chemical found in everything from plywood to carpet.
As long as the studies continue, the EPA will still list formaldehyde as a "probable" rather than a "known" carcinogen, even though three major scientific reviews now link it to leukemia and have strengthened its ties to other forms of cancer. The chemical industry is fighting to avoid that designation, because it could lead to tighter regulations and require costly pollution controls.
"Delay means money. The longer they can delay labeling something a known carcinogen, the more money they can make," said James Huff, associate director for chemical carcinogenesis at the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences in the Department of Health and Human Services.
Vitters ties to the formaldehyde industry are well known. According to Talking Points Memo, his election campaign received about $20,500 last year from companies that produce large amounts of formaldehyde waste in Louisiana. But ProPublica found that Vitter actually took in nearly twice that amount if contributions from other companies, trade groups and lobbyists with interests in formaldehyde regulation are included. Among those contributors is Charles Grizzle, a top-paid lobbyist for the Formaldehyde Council, an industry trade group that had long sought a National Academy review of the chemical.
Sen. James Inhofe persuaded the EPA to delay its formaldehyde risk assessment in 2004. (Getty Images file photo)
Congress stalled the formaldehyde risk assessment once before. In 2004, Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., persuaded the EPA to delay it, even though preliminary findings from a National Cancer Institute study had already linked formaldehyde to leukemia. Inhofe insisted that the EPA wait for a more "robust set of findings" from the institute.
Koch Industries, a large chemical manufacturer and one of Inhofes biggest campaign contributors, gave Inhofe $6,000 that year. That same year Koch bought two pulp mills from Georgia-Pacific, a major formaldehyde producer and one of the worlds largest plywood manufacturers. The next year Koch bought all of Georgia-Pacific.
Whenever a separation is made between liberty and justice, neither, in my opinion, is safe.