Did The EPA Collude With The Chemical Industry?

From medicinal drugs to farming pesticides, US chemical manufacturers must file a comprehensive set of scientific safety tests These toxicology reports are reviewed by the EPA, the FDA, and other federal agencies

If they determine a chemical will not jeopardize human health or the environment, they approve the product for registration and sale on the market But in the 1970s, it emerged the industry was fraught with fraud and poor standards The American people believed the thousands of chemicals they were exposed to every day were perfectly safe They were being lied to – and not just by the industry Safety research is expected to be done to the most rigorous scientific standards, certified by lab technicians and scientists through exhaustive testing, including on animals

By the late 1970s, chemical manufacturers employed around 400 independent testing firms to conduct safety research for the thousands of chemicals on the market By far the biggest of these firms was Industrial Bio-Test Laboratories, or IBT Since 1952, they performed up to 40% of all toxicology tests in the USA, more than 22,000 studies for nearly every major American chemical and drug manufacturer and several federal agencies Almost half of the studies were used to gain federal registration for hundreds of drugs, food additives and pesticides sold in America and internationally In 1975, Senator Edward M

Kennedy led a series of hearings in which FDA and EPA officials revealed the drug and the petrochemical industries were deliberately falsifying scientific research A year later, FDA pathologist Doctor Adrian Gross discovered IBT was one of the worst offenders IBT technician James Rawlins testified that during animal trials, conditions in the animal feeding rooms were so filthy, countless rats and mice would die, even drowning in their feeding troughs “There were feces, hair, and urine stuck to cages They were heavily saturated

” The dead rodents were left to rot They decomposed so rapidly “their bodies oozed through wire cage bottoms and lay in purple puddles on the dropping trays” This was such a frequent occurrence, IBT invented the acronym TBD – “too badly decomposed” – to describe the raw safety data None of this was reported to their sponsors or the government IBT’s standards were so bad, its technicians refused to stand behind their own results and did not sign their studies; so IBT decided to forge signatures

At the end of a seven year investigation, the EPA found 90% of IBT studies had serious problems, and 80% of their research data was either nonexistent, fraudulent or invalid IBT’s testing labs were shut down in 1978 Five years later, three IBT officials were convicted of fabricating product safety tests used to gain government approval for sale They were fined and sentenced to decades in prison Officially, this was the end of the matter

Then in July 2017, the Bioscience Resource Project and the Centre for Media and Democracy released over 20,000 documents covering chemical testing procedures Many of them were gathered over decades by activist Carol Van Strum, through public interest lawsuits and open records requests Among those papers is a transcript of a meeting that took place at Howard Johnsons Inn in Arlington, Virginia, on October 3rd, 1978 Attendees at the private meeting included senior EPA officials and executives from the chemical industry At the time, scientifically and ethically speaking, the EPA should have withdrawn its approval from every IBT tested chemical, and ordered IBT to carry out retests

Instead, the transcript shows the EPA began the meeting by listing the errors made by IBT that federal agencies would ignore, in order to validate IBT’s studies and allow its chemicals to continue being sold to the public For instance, the transcript shows the government was willing to overlook the fact that IBT studies were often shorter than the 90 days required by federal protocols The EPA also said it would use data from IBT’s control experiments, even though they were carried out with test subjects from different batches, at different times to the main experiments, and in different environments Furthermore, the EPA offered to accept all IBT studies even if they were unsigned or had forged signatures This was all despite the fact that, in that same meeting, an EPA consultant stated that “there were few [IBT] studies that did not have discrepancies, errors and omissions

” In summary, the EPA’s Acting Branch Chief of Regulatory Analysis and Laboratory Audits, Fred Arnold said, “We determined [it] was neither in EPA’s interest or the public interest or the industry’s interest to replace all IBT data EPA’s decision may have been based on the fact that IBT was not the only fraudulent testing firm out there; it was simply the biggest Federal officials confirmed that most of the 60,000 chemicals in regular use across America did not have adequate scientific studies supporting them The chief spokesman for the National Toxicology Program said, “We can’t say with any degree of authority whether they are safe or unsafe” As IBT’s defence lawyer pointed out, “Conditions and practices under which the toxicology tests were conducted at IBT… were well within the standards applied to other laboratories nationwide… There were not any real standards

There were no regulations” In December 1978 the FDA instituted the “Good Laboratories Practices” statute This standardizes the requirements for caring for test animals and ensuring accurate record keeping The statute is still enforced and updated today However, there may be another reason the EPA were kind to IBT

They were complicit in the whole scandal In the transcript from the meeting, EPA officials admit the agency was verifying IBT’s findings but “the truth of the matter is they were never examined” Activist Carol Van Strum puts it best “The 1978 Howard Johnson transcript records a crucial meeting of EPA and industry officials to discuss EPA’s response to massive fraud in the safety tests for [chemical] registrations [It documents] the government’s acceptance of phony industry studies while dismissing reports of human illness, death, involuntary abortions, birth defects, and other effects of chemical exposure

” The various federal agencies that regulate the chemical industry operate with more authority and higher standards than they did in the 1970s However, we can still only hope that the issue of human safety is more influential than the interests and lobbying of private enterprise and personal agendas We must wonder what other secrets from the past have yet to emerge "

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