People Hurt by Chemicals That Were “Blessed” by Trump Toxics Nominee Speak Out

Michael Dourson nominated to oversee chemical safety at EPA has long record of downplaying chemical risks for industry clients

September 19, 2017
Keith Gaby,, (202) 572-3336

Press Release

(Washington DC—September 19, 2017) People whose lives and communities have been harmed by dangerous chemicals “blessed” by Michael Dourson, President Trump’s nominee to run the toxic chemicals office at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), joined chemical safety experts today to add their voices to the growing chorus of Americans concerned over his nomination. The Senate Environment and Public Works committee will hold a confirmation hearing on Wednesday for Mr. Dourson who many public health advocates consider to be uniquely unfit for such an important position charged with protecting the public from the risks posed by toxic chemicals and pesticides.

Experts from Environmental Defense Fund and Environmental Working Group joined representatives of impacted communities in speaking out against Dourson’s long record as a toxicologist-for-hire who has helped his corporate clients dramatically downplay the risks of their harmful chemicals. If confirmed, Dourson will head the EPA division that oversees chemical and pesticide safety programs.

“Michael Dourson has troubling history with PFOA- the Teflon chemical that contaminated my hometown’s drinking water” said Michael Hickey, a Hoosick Falls, NY resident credited with discovering the PFOA contamination in 2014. “After my father died from kidney cancer and I discovered the contamination, we were told not to drink the water unless PFOA levels were 1,500 times lower than what Dourson has previously endorsed as safe. He simply can’t be trusted to make decisions that will protect communities like mine.”

“For decades, Michael Dourson has been a reliable ally of chemical and pesticide makers, aiding their efforts to loosen health-protective restrictions and standards on their chemicals,” said Dr. Richard Denison, Lead Senior Scientist at Environmental Defense Fund. “His ‘bought-and-paid-for” work has adversely affected families across the country, from Hoosick Falls New York to Parkersburg, West Virginia to farmworkers in California. Senators should look very closely at Dourson’s record, and cast a vote to oppose his appointment.”

“It’s hard to find someone as hostile to the environmental health of the American people than Administrator Pruitt, but President Trump did just that in his nomination of Mr. Dourson,” said Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs at EWG. “If he allowed to take control of the nation’s chemicals safety program, he’ll almost certainly continue his work from inside EPA ignoring public health while greenwashing chemicals at the behest of industry - and it will be taxpayers, instead of chemical companies, paying his salary.”

President Trump has nominated Michael Dourson to run EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, where he would be in charge of regulating the same chemical and pesticide companies who have paid him for his work. Dourson and his firm have been paid by more than three dozen companies or industry trade associations for work involving at least three dozen different chemicals. This included work on the pesticide chlorpyrifos paid for entirely by Dow AgroSciences, petroleum coke paid for by Koch Industries and many more.

As industry emails reported in The Intercept reveal, chemical companies considered Dourson’s firm – Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment (TERA) – the best place to go to challenge or weaken government health standards. In West Virginia, Dourson helped his client play down concerns about PFOA in drinking water. This toxic chemical tied to kidney cancer has contaminated water supplies in New York as well as West Virginia and other states around the country. Dourson’s work on PFOA recommended a standard that was 50-150 times less health-protective than even DuPont’s own standard at the time, and thousands of times less health-protective than current standards.

Dourson’s work seeking to weaken the government standard for PFOA is hardly unique:

  • Based on work paid for by PPG Industries, Dourson’s recommended standard for the carcinogen 1,4 dioxane was about 1,000 times weaker than the prevailing standards.
  • Based on work paid for by Dow AgroSciences, Dourson’s recommended standard for the neurotoxicant pesticide chlorpyrifos was 33 times less protective than the standard in place at the time and thousands of time less protective than today’s standard.
  • Based on work paid for by the American Chemistry Council, Dourson’s recommended standard for the carcinogen TCE was 1.5 to 15 times less protective than EPA’s.

 “When I fought to get the industrial petcoke out of our neighborhood in Chicago, Michael Dourson was working with Koch Industries to minimize our concerns,” said Olga Bautista of the Southeast Side Coalition to Ban Petcoke. “To charge him with overseeing chemical safety for the entire country might be good for families like the Kochs, but it would not be good for families like mine.”

Dourson’s work patterns date back to his paid work for a tobacco industry front group, the Center for Indoor Air Research, aimed at minimizing the health concerns over second-hand smoke. How did Dourson justify working for Big Tobacco? “Jesus hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors,” he said.

Dourson’s confirmation hearing will take place on Wednesday, at 10am in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.