Environmentalists were aghast last week upon discovering that the Bush administration's
Office of Management and Budget (OMB) had weakened otherwise stringent new Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines on assessing the cancer risk of various chemicals.
In essence, the added OMB requirements allow for unlimited industry challenges
on cancer risk rulings, meaning chemical companies will be able to at least
slow down phase-outs of products already known to increase childhood cancer
The White House decided it was more important to protect the chemical industry
than protect our kids from cancer," reported Jennifer Sass, senior scientist
with the advocacy-oriented Natural Resources Defense Council.
Sass and her colleagues contend that the so-called "expert elicitation"
language inserted by OMB at the eleventh hour opens the door for chemical manufacturers
and their lobbyists to contest how EPA applies the new risk assessment guidelines,
potentially adding years to decision-making processes on substances already
causing problems. Furthermore, OMB also added language requiring EPA cancer
evaluations to meet the standards of the Data Quality Act, a law designed by
tobacco industry lobbyists to invalidate protective legislation.
"The White House took what would have been strong guidelines to protect
our children from cancer and turned them into an industry punching bag,"
said Sass. "Chemical companies will be able to pummel any new safeguard
to death. The chemical industry wins, our children lose," she concluded.