Employees at the Environmental Protection Agency were so worried that a fancy desk that their former boss Scott Pruitt had ordered for his office might contain high levels of a known carcinogen that they arranged to set it up in a warehouse and let it air out for a week.
The problem is that the same officials later blocked the release of a draft report prepared before President Donald Trump took office on the dangers of exposure to the same substance, formaldehyde, to the general public.
That report showed that it can cause diseases including leukemia and nose and throat cancer, and that many Americans are regularly exposed to it, according to government watchdog American Oversight.
The watchdog uncovered a series of emails that showed the staffer’s concerns about their boss apparently did not extend to their fellow citizens. The chemicals industry had lobbied to suppress the report for fear it would lead to restrictions on the chemical or be used in class-action lawsuits.
“We can add ‘EPA chemical safety science’ to the list of taxpayer-funded benefits that former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt kept for himself,” American Oversight said in a report on its site.
The incident dates back to early 2017, when Pruitt, new to his role as overseer of the EPA, chose a new desk on Amazon and asked his staff to order it. One employee noticed that the Amazon product page included a California Proposition 65 warning, which aims to alert Californians to risks from chemicals that are known to cause cancer or birth defects or other harm.
The staffer reached out to the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention in an email asking: “Is it OK to get this desk for the Administrator?”
“Formaldehyde will off gas from new furniture and can irritate eyes and throats,” Wendy Clelland-Hamnett, acting assistant administrator, wrote in an email. “So I suggest airing out the components somewhere for a day or two before assembling in the Administrator’s office.”
The email exchange can be seen at the American Oversight site.
Pruitt resigned from his role on July 5, after a series of scandals, from accepting below-market rent from a lobbyist to employing a so-called secret calendar to hide contacts with industry representatives. He was also alleged to have wasted government funds on excessive security arrangements and to have flown first class to avoid verbal attacks from the public.
Trump stood behind Pruitt as the controversies mounted, including trying to get his wife a $200,000-per-year job and having assistants pay for travel expenses.
I bet that desk had the Koch Brothers filthy fingerprints all over it.