Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
The staff of former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt worried he could've been exposed to formaldehyde from a desk he bought for his office. Pruitt ordered the desk last year in an almost $10,000 office renovation.
Politico first reported on the EPA staffer emails obtained by watchdog group American Oversight that revealed Pruitt's purchase of the desk.
On April 7 of last year, acting deputy chief of staff Reginald Allen sent an email to the acting head of EPA's toxic chemicals office, Wendy Cleland-Hamnett, after noticing the desk was labeled as carcinogenic.
“Sorry to bother you with this but we need some help,” Allen wrote. “The desk the Administrator wants for his office from Amazon has a California Proposition 65 warning. What I am asking is can someone in your area tell us whether it is OK to get this desk for the Administrator related to the warning?”
Staffers then took precautions to protect Pruitt from the chemical, including letting the desk air out for a few days before moving it into his office.
The irony of the tale lies in the fact EPA staffers then worked to block the release of a study that laid out the dangers of formaldehyde, the chemical found in the glue of Pruitt's desk. The health advisory found exposure to the toxin correlated with leukemia, nose-and-throat cancer and other health problems.
The executive director of the group that exposed the emails, Austin Evers, pointed out the hypocrisy in a statement:
“You can add 'EPA chemical safety science' to the list of taxpayer funded benefits that Scott Pruitt kept for himself. The irony would be comical if this wasn't so dangerous. Months before Scott Pruitt blocked the EPA's report on the dangers of formaldehyde to public health, he got the benefit of EPA's safety experts looking out for his own health.”