Monday, February 18, 2008

Sacrificing Science and Consumer Health

Toxins, Trailers and Unsafe Toys allowed by the administration:

CHICAGO -- The lead author and peer reviewers of a government report raising the possibility of public health threats from industrial contamination throughout the Great Lakes region are charging that the report is being suppressed because of the questions it raises. The author also alleges that he was demoted because of the report. Chris De Rosa, former director of the division of toxicology and environmental medicine at the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), charges that the report he wrote was a significant factor in his reassignment to a non-supervisory "special assistant" position last year. The House Committee on Science and Technology is investigating De Rosa's reassignment, in light of allegations that it was related to the Great Lakes report and his push to publicize the possibility of a cancer risk from formaldehyde fumes in Federal Emergency Management Agency trailers housing victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The nation's premiere consumer product regulator, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), has been crippled by budget cuts and staffing losses that now span decades. Every president since Gerald Ford has proposed cutting the agency's budget at least once, and Congresses controlled by both parties have obliged.

Recent attention surrounding massive product recalls, including contaminated Christmas toys this past year, prompted Congress at the end of 2007 to give the agency one of its biggest funding boosts, and lawmakers are considering additional legislation to ensure consistent long-term funding. President Bush's FY 2009 budget request, announced Feb. 4, proposes level funding for the agency.

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