EPA boots reporters from meeting on chemicals called a PR disaster

Enlarge / US EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. (credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr)

Scott Pruitt's tenure as head of the US' Environmental Protection Agency has often been bogged down in scandals involving questionable spending and the unjustifiable rollback of regulations.

But the latest controversy is one the agency's own making. This morning, Pruitt was speaking at a workshop convened to discuss the handling of specific chemical contaminants that have been found in water supplies. The EPA was already under fire for what appeared to be an attempt to stall a report that suggests these chemicals were more toxic than previously thought, so the workshop provided an opportunity to show that the agency took the risks seriously. Instead, the EPA started a brand-new controversy by specifically excluding CNN and the AP from Pruitt's speech and by having security physically escort a reporter out of the building.

Contamination

The controversy focuses on a large class of chemicals that are variations of perfluorooctanoic acid. This is a chain of eight carbon atoms, seven of which have fluorine atoms attached to them; the eighth is linked to two oxygen atoms, typical of an organic acid. There are many variations of perfluorooctanoic acid that can be made by substituting for various fluorines, and many of these variants have found uses in the production of everything from non-stick cooking to fire-fighting foams.

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