The Progress Report

ENVIRONMENT -- VITTER'S OBSTRUCTION DELAYS EPA EFFORT TO LABEL FORMALDEHYDE AS A CARCINOGEN: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been working since 1998 to update its assessment of formaldehyde's health risks from a "probable" to a "known" carcinogen. After years of delay, a National Cancer Institute study released last year linking formaldehyde to leukemia gave momentum to the EPA's effort. However, Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), who has strong ties to the formaldehyde industry, has been standing in the way. After the study came out, Vitter blocked the nomination of one key EPA official, urging the agency to seek an additional National Academy of Sciences (NAS) review of formaldehyde's health risks, "a process that usually requires more time and money than the EPA's own external peer review panel."

EPA administrator Lisa Jackson eventually relented, clearing the way for the nomination, but postponing formaldehyde's new designation. "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 in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Vitter's opposition is not surprising, given the generous contributions he has received from the formaldehyde industry. An analysis by Talking Points Memo last year revealed that Vitter received $20,050 from formaldehyde-producing contributors, including further contributions last year from Hexion Specialty Chemicals, Dupont, and Koch Industries, all formaldehyde producers. Even one of the Formaldehyde Council's Washington lobbyists, Charles Grizzle, donated $2,400 to Vitter's re-election campaign the same day the National Cancer Institute released its study.

Vitter's shilling for the formaldehyde industry also flies in the face of his constituents displaced by Hurricane Katrina, who "claim[ed] they suffered respiratory problems after being housed in government trailers" that contained "dangerously high levels" of the chemical. Last month, the NAS "began gathering public comments about the 13 scientists it has selected for the formaldehyde panel," but the Natural Resources Defense Council points out that two of them have ties to the formaldehyde industry.