NIEHS Director’s Involvement in Scientific Study Investigated

Silencing Science Tracker

NIEHS Director’s Involvement in Scientific Study Investigated

On January 17, 2018, the Chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, Lamar Smith, and the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Environment, Andy Biggs, requested that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) investigate possible violations of anti-lobbying rules by Dr. Linda Birnbaum, the director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).

In a letter to HHS, Representatives Smith and Biggs expressed concern about an article co-authored by Dr. Birnbaum, in PLOS Biology. The article discussed seven peer-reviewed studies of federal toxics regulation which, according to Dr. Birnbaum and her co-authored, showed that “existing US regulations have not kept pace with scientific advances showing that widely used chemicals cause serious health problems at levels previously assumed to be safe.” They went on to state: “Closing the gap between evidence and policy will require that engaged citizens, both scientists and nonscientists, work to ensure our government officials pass health-protective policies based on the best available scientific evidence.”

According to Representatives Smith and Biggs,  by “encourag[ing] citizens to petition government officials” for policy changes, Birnbaum may be violating anti-lobbying rules. They request that HHS “analyze these concerns to determine whether it is appropriate to launch a full scale review of the situation.” They also request that HHS provide the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology with copies of “all documents and communications regarding the PLOS collection of articles” so it can conduct its own review.


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