Who’s in charge of chemical safety?

“It’s a betrayal,” said Senator Merkley. “It’s immoral,” said Senator Markey.  “We have not done the right thing,” said Senator Carper. These are the words that U.S. Senators used on Wednesday, October 25 to describe their committee’s approval of Michael Dourson to lead the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) chemical safety office.

Because Michael Dourson has made a career of defending toxic chemicals against regulation, the appointment is akin to a fox guarding the henhouse.

Dourson has headed a consulting firm with a long tradition of manipulating scientific research to benefit Dow, Monsanto, and DuPont (see The New York Times). Time and again, Dourson has suggested that toxic chemicals are “safe” at levels that are hundreds, or even thousands, of times higher than the standard set by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Now, Dourson is poised to be in charge of the very program he has so long opposed.

On Wednesday, October 25 the US Senate Environment and Public Works committee voted to approve the nomination of Michael Dourson to lead the EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. If approved by Congress, Dourson would oversee the program that controls chemicals used in everyday products—the chemicals that end up in our homes, our communities and our bodies.

Experts across the nation have raised concerns about Dourson. As the nomination goes to the full Senate for approval, it becomes all the more important to voice these concerns.

Oregon has reason to be particularly outraged.

On several occasions, Oregon has led the nation with policies that protect people from toxic chemicals. And in the process, we have become familiar with the aggressive power of national chemical industry interests as they undermine efforts to protect public health.

It’s a familiar tactic for hired scientists to defend the multi-billion-dollar industry by downplaying the health risks of chemicals in everyday products. The more attention we pay to these hazards, the more urgently companies have worked to defend their chemicals.

For years, we worked to pass Oregon’s Toxic Free Kids Act, requiring manufacturers to disclose toxics in children’s products and to replace them with safer alternatives. Our law is now up and running, and will be fully in place in the next few years – bringing much needed safety and certainty for parents and consumers around the state.

Oregon’s law collects data that will help protect kids in our state, and could be very useful to EPA as they begin to review the health and safety of chemicals in use across the country. But what if, under Dourson, EPA is not making public health a priority? At best, Oregon’s data will simply be ignored the federal government. At worst, we could see more efforts to weaken or hamstring Oregon’s law.

When industry interests come before public health in our federal system, it becomes all the more important for states like Oregon to take the lead. Oregon has a unique opportunity to make a bold difference. This year, Oregon’s Health Authority will continue to put the Toxic Free Kids Act to work on identifying toxic chemicals in children’s products and moving towards safer alternatives. See more about the Act.We’ll need to remind our decision-makers how important it is to make protecting health a top priority.

We will need Oregonians on our side. If you aren’t already part of our action network, join us now; we will be asking you to speak up in defense of health and our environment.

Related Posts
Filter by
Post Page
Featured Toxics-Free Environments Toxic Free Priorities Environmental Health Eco-Healthy Homes Living Green Policy Water News Water Action
Sort by

Huge Wins for Public Health! Oregon Lawmakers Act to Keep Toxic Chemicals Out of Cosmetics and Kids’ Products

In a resounding victory for the health and well-being of Oregonians, Oregon Environmental Council and coalition partners successfully advocated for the passage of two crucial environmental health bills in the 2023 legislative session.  Despite facing staunch opposition from the chemical industry, our coalition’s unwavering commitment and tenacity paid off, as we se
June 27, 2023, 2:46 pm


Three kids playing in a sandbox

It’s National Public Health Week. Let’s tackle toxic chemicals!

This post was co-authored by Lisa Arkin, Executive Director, Beyond Toxics It’s National Public Health Week. Let’s tackle toxic chemicals! Every child deserves a safe environment to grow in that allows them to become strong and healthy and develop to their full potential. During National Public Health Week, it’s important to draw attention to the health
April 4, 2023, 8:47 pm


Tell outdoor retailer REI to take toxic ‘forever chemicals’ out of their apparel!

From waterproof jackets to boots, outdoor gear sold at REI and other retailers like Columbia Sportswear contains ‘
September 15, 2022, 10:57 pm


Without TFKA expansions, OHA forced to choose 5 chemicals to regulate

There’s thousands of potentially harmful chemicals in products that are marketed to kids. As of now, OHA can regulate just a few of them. We need to change that.  In 2015, OEC’s advocacy lead to the passage of a groundbreaking law, the Toxics Free Kids Act (TFKA), which required manufacturers of children’s products sold i
September 30, 2021, 8:31 pm


If Our Government Won’t Regulate Toxic Chemicals, It Is Up to Consumer Behavior and Retailers to Drive Change

New Report Reveals Top Retailers Making Major Chemical Safety Advances A new report released this week by Oregon Environmental Council’s partner Safer Chemicals Healthy Families reveals that many of our nation’s top retailers are vo
November 21, 2019, 10:03 pm


Protect Oregon’s drinking water from toxic PFAS: Ask Congressman Walden to designate PFAS as a “hazardous chemical”

Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a category of hazardous chemicals that are currently designated as “contaminants” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  To protect human health, Congress must designate PFAS as hazardous chemicals, which
August 26, 2019, 5:53 pm


Toxic Free Kids Act: PBT Chemicals

This data on persistent and/or bio-accumulative chemicals in children’s products was reported to the Oregon Health Authority in 2018. The table below may take a moment to load. For more information on the links between these chemicals and health effects, visit
December 7, 2018, 11:48 pm


Chemicals of Concern In Children’s Products

In 2015 the Oregon legislature passed the Toxic Free Kids Act. The law requires manufacturers who make children’s products to report w
November 22, 2018, 11:33 pm


1 Reply to "Who's in charge of chemical safety?"

  • B Scott Taylor
    October 27, 2017 (2:36 pm)

    Talk is cheap.
    There are practical options for toxic chemicals. Takes leadership to demand them.