The closer the election gets, the more even supposedly scientific questions get filtered through a political strainer. Case in point: last week, our federal government served up a partisan message during an official discussion of PFAS cleanup. PFAS like Chemours’ GenX are used to make teflon, firefighting foam, and other materials. They are known as “forever chemicals” because they stay in the body for a long time, and cause various cancers and birth defects.
President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler came to Fayetteville for a meeting on dealing with PFAS contamination. Wheeler and state and local officials met to discuss PFAS research and regulation, including the announcement of a new grant seeking a way to destroy PFAS without burning them.
What was partisan about it? Democratic legislators were not invited, and even North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) was only informed of the meeting after it was too late to attend. Ironically, U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC-8) opened the meeting by noting this was not a partisan issue, before praising the Trump EPA’s speed in developing a PFAS action plan. In reality, there still is no final plan, despite the release of a draft three years ago.
Partly because of the gaps in participation, the discussion wasn’t exactly a shining beacon of clarity on the science involved. One elected participant suggested, astonishingly, that GenX pollution might actually be healthy. “No one knows,” he said. “Some people wonder, is GenX making them live longer? Is it curing vision problems? There’s so much mystery about it.”
It’s clearly time for an EPA that takes sound science and nonpartisan support for the protection of public health seriously, rather than using crises for partisan campaign propaganda.