LA Sen. David Vitter (R-Formaldehyde)

Andy Kroll
November 12, 2009

Excerpt

“So why is Vitter so sympathetic to the formaldehyde industry? Campaign finance records show that many of Louisiana’s big formaldehyde polluters happen to be—you guessed it—Vitter campaign donors. He’s received $9,000 from Dow Chemical’s PAC, $5,000 from Monsanto’s, $5,000 from ExxonMobil’s, and $2,500 from the American Forest and Paper Association’s. The American Forest and Paper Association is also a member of the Formaldehyde Council, an industry group whose views align with Vitter’s (it’s lobbied for an NAS review, too).”

“And though a Vitter spokesman’s recent comments that the FEMA-trailer debacle, which exposed thousands of displaced Gulf Coast victims living in government-issued trailers to high formaldehyde levels, demonstrated the need “to get absolutely reliable information to the public about formaldehyde risk as soon as possible,” Vitter’s position ensures the EPA won’t be rolling out formaldehyde guidelines anytime soon.”

Article

In May, President Obama nominated a renowned scientist known as the “father of green chemistry” to head the EPA’s Office of Research and Development. For an administration that supports ambitious climate change legislation and stresses the importance of sustainability, the nomination of Paul Anastas, director of Yale’s Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering and a former White House environment director, was very much in keeping with its broader agenda. Anastas’ nomination was unanimously approved in committee in July, and his confirmation seemed all but assured. Yet six months later Anastas still isn’t confirmed. Standing in his way is Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), whose block on Anastas’ nomination raises questions about Vitter’s close ties to the formaldehyde industry.

Today, the future of the formaldehyde industry is very much in jeopardy. A few years back, the International Agency for Research on Cancer definitively announced that the chemical, used in building materials and household products, causes cancer in humans. The EPA, which has studied formaldehyde’s risks for more than a decade, doesn’t go quite so far, saying it’s a “probable human carcinogen.” But that could soon change. The EPA has recently signaled that it plans to definitively assess formaldehyde’s health effects. “This is not the time for more delay,” an EPA spokeswoman told the New Orleans Times-Picayune in September. As the agency’s research director, Anastas would surely have a role in this assessment. Given that one of Anastas’ specialties is researching “the design of safer chemicals and chemical processes to replace hazardous substances,” the formaldehyde industry is predictably concerned about his nomination.

Here’s where Vitter comes in. Instead of the EPA ruling on formaldehyde now, Vitter wants the agency to let the National Academy of Sciences review formaldehyde’s risk, a process that could take a year or more and that might favor industry supporters, environmentalists say, because the NAS review would use industry-based reports. Likewise, blocking Anastas’ nomination is another way of slowing the EPA’s movement on formaldehyde. (An EPA official told Mother Jones that agency head Lisa Jackson met with Vitter to ask him to let the nomination go through, which didn’t happen.) And though a Vitter spokesman’s recent comments that the FEMA-trailer debacle, which exposed thousands of displaced Gulf Coast victims living in government-issued trailers to high formaldehyde levels, demonstrated the need “to get absolutely reliable information to the public about formaldehyde risk as soon as possible,” Vitter’s position ensures the EPA won’t be rolling out formaldehyde guidelines anytime soon.

So why is Vitter so sympathetic to the formaldehyde industry? Campaign finance records show that many of Louisiana’s big formaldehyde polluters happen to be—you guessed it—Vitter campaign donors. He’s received $9,000 from Dow Chemical’s PAC, $5,000 from Monsanto’s, $5,000 from ExxonMobil’s, and $2,500 from the American Forest and Paper Association’s. The American Forest and Paper Association is also a member of the Formaldehyde Council, an industry group whose views align with Vitter’s (it’s lobbied for an NAS review, too).

Anastas is under no illusions as to the obstacles in the way, telling Chemistry World in October that “we face tremendous challenges in ensuring the best science is brought to bear on issues like arsenic and formaldehyde.” Reached at his office Wednesday, he remained sanguine about his nomination, saying he was “extremely enthusiastic about assuming my duties at the EPA when the Senate finalizes its process and if they confirm me.” An environmentalist with the Sierra Club summed up the situation best to the Times-Picayune: “It’s just disappointing that anybody would try to get in the way of us finally adopting the kind of formaldehyde standards that exist in other [countries] that protect people. It’s ironic that this could come from somebody from Katrinaland, who has thousands of constituents who were exposed to excess formaldehyde level after being placed in government housing.”

mother jones

International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) confirms link between formaldehyde and leukemia

Formaldehyde Exposure and Asthma in Children: A Systematic Review

New Orleans family loses FEMA trailer suit & Why CDC Responded With ‘Lack of Urgency’ to Formaldehyde Warnings – top government officials worried about lawsuits from the beginning

Political Action Committee – NAA – files Amicus Brief in mold case (two infant deaths in mold filled apt – Wasatch Prop Mgmt) citing US Chamber/ACOEM ‘litigation defense report’ to disclaim health effects of indoor mold & limit financial risk for industry

“Changes in construction methods have caused US buildings to become perfect petri dishes for mold and bacteria to flourish when water is added. Instead of warning the public and teaching physicians that the buildings were causing illness; in 2003 the US Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform, a think-tank, and a workers comp physician trade organization mass marketed an unscientific nonsequitor to the courts to disclaim the adverse health effects to stave off liability for financial stakeholders of moldy buildings. Although publicly exposed many times over the years, the deceit lingers in US courts to this very day.” Sharon Noonan Kramer

Information on Riverstone Residential knowingly exposing tenants to extreme amounts of mold toxins at Toxic Mold Infested Jefferson Lakes Apartments in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Toxic Mold Infested Jefferson Lakes Apartments managed by Riverstone Residential

Riverstone Residential Litigation

Mold Inspection Reports

Photos of Mold in Apartment

Attorney Malpractice

This entry was posted in Environmental Health Threats, FEMA Trailers, Health - Medical - Science, Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s