Photo via All Around the House
The Agency of Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has a number of responsibilities. One of which is to determine whether or not it's safe for people to live near toxic dump sites. And one of which is not to "deny, delay, minimize, trivialize or ignore legitimate health concerns," as a recent report has charged the agency with frequently doing. Through poor analysis, failure to act, and possibly a deliberate intent to obscure findings, the ATSDR has left many people exposed to toxic substances, and at great health risk.Imagine living near a Superfund site, or a something that looks and smells suspiciously like a toxic waste dump. It stinks, and some of your neighbors seem to have trouble breathing--you're worried you might be exposed to toxic materials. The ATSDR is the agency you were supposed to contact. So you did. And the agency would give leave you with findings "that are challenged by outside scientists or are ambiguous about whether people living near industrial pollution or toxic dumps or breathe foul-smelling air have reason to worry." Then, you get mad. And rightfully so.
According to the new report on the ATSDR, which was obtained by the Associated Press:
"Time and time again ATSDR appears to avoid clearly and directly confronting the most obvious toxic culprits that harm the health of local communities throughout the nation," said the report from the House Science and Technology investigations and oversight subcommittee.
And how might it do that? Well, the AP article chronicles some pretty mind boggling incidents that include: the agency publicly rebuking a doctor who revealed that an area once home to a toxic waste company was causing a high incidence of a blood cancer in people exposed to it, "overlooking" previous studies that showed a history of cancer and birth defects in a contaminated neighborhood (and declaring it safe), and ignoring the complaints and health ailments of residents near an Ohio waste plant before using an insufficient sampling to declare the area non-toxic.
The list goes on—that was just a sort of greatest hits reel from yet another Bush administration environmental group's many acts of startling incompetence.
But now, with criticism getting heaped on the ATSDR from the new report, outraged communities, and some of the agency's own scientists, perhaps it'll finally have to fess up for its ignorance and really, reckless endangerment of human welfare.