Press Release

Following Troubling Report That White House Intervened In Release Of Study On PFAS To Avoid “Public Relations Nightmare,” Gillibrand Leads 10 Other Senators In Calling On EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt & Other Administration Officials To Immediately Release Department Of Health And Human Services Study And All Internal Documents Discussing Attempted Cover-Up

May 16, 2018

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, today led a letter with ten other senators calling on EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and other administration officials to immediately release the study reportedly being kept secret by the Trump administration which shows that perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are dangerous at far lower levels than EPA previously said was safe. Gillibrand also demanded that Pruitt release all internal documents and communications regarding discussion about the attempted cover-up of the report. Gillibrand’s letter was signed by U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), and U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Ed Markey (D-MA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH).  

 “I’m extremely disturbed by the report that the Trump administration is hiding information from the public about the dangers of PFAS because they are scared that Americans will be angry,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This attempted cover-up is outrageous. Numerous communities in New York have already had their water supplies poisoned by these very chemicals, and if the Trump administration has more evidence that PFAS are harmful to people’s health, then they need to come clean and tell the public. No New Yorker should ever have to fear that their drinking water is going to make them sick, and New Yorkers deserve to see the results of this study immediately.”

 Gillibrand is sending identical letters to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney.

 The full text of Gillibrand’s letter is available here and below:

 The Honorable Scott Pruitt


Environmental Protection Agency

1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20460

 Dear Administrator Pruitt,

 We are writing in response to a troubling report[1] that officials from the White House, Office of Management and Budget, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Defense (DOD) intervened in order to delay the release of a study by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) concerning the health effects of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The unreleased HHS assessment reportedly concludes that those chemicals pose a danger to human health at a far lower level than EPA has previously said was safe. If this report is accurate and administration officials sought to suppress release of critical public health information in the interest of avoiding a “public relations nightmare,” it is an unacceptable failure of leadership and a failure to protect public health.

 Perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are a class of toxic chemicals affecting communities across the nation.  These chemical substances are linked to certain cancers and other serious adverse health effects. They are often used to manufacture products like fabric protectors, firefighting foam, and stain repellents due to rigorous chemical properties that also make them persistent in the environment and resistant to degradation.

 ATSDR is directed by Congressional mandate to perform specific functions concerning the effect on public health of hazardous substances in the environment, including health consultations concerning specific hazardous substances. According to internal EPA emails that were released to the Union of Concerned Scientists under the Freedom of Information Act, on January 30, 2018, a political appointee who oversees environmental issues at the White House Office of Management and Budget, forwarded an email from another White House aide about the ATSDR’s PFAS report to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) top financial officer, which stated:

 “The public, media, and Congressional reaction to these numbers is going to be huge…The impact to EPA and DoD is going to be extremely painful. We (DoD and EPA) cannot seem to get ATSDR to realize the potential public relations nightmare this is going to be.”

 The ATSDR report still has not been publicly released. Given the scope of the contamination nationwide and the ongoing exposure of communities across the United States to these chemicals, it is imperative that the public receive an opportunity to review the ATSDR report.  Therefore, we request that you release the draft report immediately. We also request that you provide our offices with all internal documents and communications in your agency’s possession regarding any internal deliberations or discussion about this report within 10 business days. 

 Thank you for your attention to this matter, and we look forward to receiving your response soon.