EDF Scientist Blasts Senate Committee Vote to Confirm Conflicted Toxics Nominee

“Chemical safety should not be a partisan issue”

October 25, 2017
Keith Gaby, kgaby@edfaction.org, (202) 572-3336

(Washington DC—October 25, 2017) Following a Senate Committee vote to confirm the controversial EPA toxics office nominee Michael Dourson, Environmental Defense Fund chemical safety expert Dr. Richard Denison raised serious concerns about Dourson’s fitness for the position.

“We are deeply disappointed that the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee today voted to advance to the full Senate the nomination of Michael Dourson to lead EPA’s toxics office,” said Denison, Lead Senior Scientist at Environmental Defense Fund.  “Protecting our families from toxic chemicals should not be a partisan issue.  Today’s vote runs counter to the spirit that prevailed in Congress just over a year ago, when Republicans and Democrats came together to pass the first update to our nation’s main chemical safety law in 40 years.  That success was based on a consensus that we desperately needed to restore confidence in our federal chemical safety system in order to foster a healthy chemical industry, as well as better ensure protection of American families from toxic chemicals.”

EDF and numerous news stories, from outlets including APNew York TimesThe Intercept, and USA Today, have extensively documented Dourson’s work as a toxicologist for hire—working for industry clients, including tobacco companies as well as dozens of chemical and pesticide makers.  In that work, Dourson consistently recommended standards that were far less health-protective than those prevailing at the time.  If confirmed, Dourson would be charged with regulating the same chemicals and pesticides for which he has worked to undermine health protections.

Denison added, “Should Dourson be confirmed, despite his long track record and extensive conflicts of interest, Congress will be reversing course from progress made just last year – which won’t be good for either American business or the American public.”

A hearing earlier this month saw very tough questioning of Dourson from Senators including, Sens. Cory Booker, Tom Carper, Tammy Duckworth, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Ed Markey, Jeff Merkley and Sheldon Whitehouse.

“We are grateful to those senators who saw that Mr. Dourson’s background as a chemical and tobacco industry scientist-for-hire is unacceptable in this position, and voted against his nomination.  Someone who built his career helping to weaken safety standards on behalf of the chemical industry should not be in charge of deciding which chemicals are safe for our kids,” Denison noted.

The fight now turns to the full Senate, where the controversial nomination is likely to be hard-fought. Additional background on Dourson’s work can be found at this link. Meanwhile, Senators have raised concerns about the fact that Dourson has already been working at the agency as a special advisor to the Administrator—even before today’s vote on his nomination.