Read the full article by Annie Snider (Politico)

“Political officials at EPA have overruled the agency’s career scientists to weaken a major health assessment for a toxic chemical contaminating the drinking water of an estimated 860,000 Americans, according to four sources with knowledge of the changes.

The changes to the safety assessment for the chemical PFBS, part of a class of ‘forever chemicals’ called PFAS, is the latest example of the Trump administration’s tailoring of science to align with its political agenda, and another in a series of eleventh-hour steps the administration has taken to hamstring President-elect Joe Biden’s ability to support aggressive environmental regulations.

‘They’re just trying to lay as many landmines as possible,’ said a Democratic congressional aide with knowledge of the changes. ‘Every single thing that they’re doing ends up being a landmine for whoever comes next. It’s going to take a lot of time to unravel, which sort of takes away from the ability to do anything proactive.’

An EPA spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment on the changes, but defended its effort to tap scientists from a different part of the agency to rewrite the rule.

PFBS is a replacement for a related chemical, PFOS, that was used for decades in Scotchguard and military firefighting foam before being phased out in the mid-2000s. PFBS has been in military firefighting foam, carpeting and food packaging, but independent scientists say it may not be much safer than the toxin it replaced. It has been linked with with thyroid, kidney and reproductive problems at very low levels of exposure.

While the new assessment is a science document, not a regulatory one, the changes in question open the door for state and federal regulators to potentially set less stringent cleanup standards, drinking water limits and other standards.

The broader class of PFAS, of which PFOS is a part, has been used in everything from stain-resistant carpeting to Teflon to microwave popcorn bags, and are linked with kidney and testicular cancer, immune effects and other health ailments. The chemicals contaminate the drinking water supplies of an estimated 200 million Americans, according to an analysis by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group.

Trump administration officials at EPA have vowed to aggressively address PFAS, touting a multi-pronged PFAS Action Plan. But they have fought efforts by lawmakers to accelerate work on a federal drinking water limit for the chemicals, and in 2018 POLITICO reported that White House officials sought to block a CDC assessment finding they are dangerous at much lower levels of exposure than EPA said was safe, calling it ‘a public relations nightmare…'”