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Should Dow Get a Veto Over Government Scientists?

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A relatively obscure Congressional hearing on Tuesday became a flashpoint in a very important conflict: the attempt by the chemical industry - led by Dow Chemical - to gain a veto over the work of government scientists. This time, however, the scientists fought back, and they need our support.

The hearing was a joint project of the House Small Business Committee and House Science Committee. It focused on how a government report on cancer-causing chemicals is hurting "small business" in America. The Report on Carcinogens, which recently classified formaldehyde as a "known carcinogen" and styrene as a "reasonably anticipated" human carcinogen was under attack. It is a statutorily mandated report that is prepared by the highly respected National Toxicology Program (NTP).

The hearing is part of a disturbing pattern of political intimidation of government scientists for doing their jobs. Companies that make and use both chemicals launched an attack on the report even before it was published and its publication was delayed for years. It took political courage for Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to allow the report to be released, and I was told phones rang off the hook at the White House from chemical industry lobbyists complaining about the decision.