According to a new study released by an agency not under the E.P.A. administrator's hapless thumb, a highly-toxic compound has been discovered in over 1,500 groundwater systems attached to federal properties.
A new report from the Department of Health reveals that the toxins known as PFAS, or perfluoroalkyls, which are regularly used in Teflon and firefighting foam, and are highly carcinogenic, have contaminated at least 1,500 groundwater systems near federal military bases across the country. The study was released this past Wednesday by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, or ATSDR, before it was nearly suppressed by the agency responsible for environmental health and regulation (see: Scott Pruitt’s Environmental Protection Agency).
According to Politico, back in January, a White House official called the findings a “potential public relations nightmare” motivating the EPA to sit on the report for the next several months. “The impact to EPA and [the Defense Department] is going to be extremely painful,” the unnamed White House official wrote. “We (DoD and EPA) cannot seem to get ATSDR to realize the potential public relations nightmare this is going to be.”
Since its introduction in the 1940s, the toxic compound has been found in water supplies near military bases across the country and in your food; through contaminated soil, food packaging, or through a build-up on food processing equipment. Although PFAS have been phased out in the last decade, they’re still produced internationally and find themselves coming into the country via leather and apparel, textiles, paper and packaging, coatings, rubber, and plastics. Ninety-eight percent of the U.S. population has trace quantities of PFAS in their blood stream.
The study “confirms that the EPA’s guidelines for PFAS levels in drinking water woefully underestimate risks to human health,” said Olga Naidenko, senior science advisor at the Environmental Working Group, which has pushed for stricter drinking water standards.
In another blow to Pruitt, who is the focus of a dozen separate investigations in his leadership at the agency, on the same day DOH released the toxic chemical report, the Intercept revealed how the EPA head spent $4.6 million on security alone. One curious line item from the purchasing documents revealed that Pruitt expensed $2,749.62 on “tactical pants” and “tactical polos.”
In addition to his expensive security habits, last week senior staff members at the EPA came forward to reporters at The New York Times to detail how they frequently felt pressurized by Pruitt to “help in personal matters and obtain special favors for his family.” One recent example being that time Pruitt tasked his political aide with reaching out to the CEO of fast-food chain Chik-Fil-A on behalf of his wife, who wanted a franchise of her own.
When on Friday, reporters’ questioned Trump’s faith in a man who’s been tarred with rolling scandals, the President answered: “I’m not happy about certain things, but he’s done a fantastic job running the EPA, which is very overriding.”
But will the that news millions of Americans have been exposed to toxins linked to cancer, low infant birth weights, and effects on the immune system put any kind of a dent in the angelic aura protecting Pruitt from the president?