ATSDR Rejects Petition to Repudiate SSFL Health Studies, Cleanup

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) announced on December 7th that it will reverse course on plans to get involved at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL).

The announcement comes after months of public outcry over ATSDR’s prior decision to accept a petition that asked the agency to repudiate studies that showed potential health risks from SSFL and to weigh in against the site’s cleanup agreements. The petition was submitted by a former manager at SSFL and current consultant to the Department of Energy, which is one of the polluters at SSFL.

“Our ATSDR environmental health scientists and leadership have evaluated information shared during recent community meetings and new data available since our previous involvement at Santa Susana,” said ATSDR Director Dr. Patrick Breysse in the agency’s press release.

“Following this evaluation, we have concluded that a thoughtful process has been used to evaluate threats to public health and to develop plans to address those health threats. Therefore, ATSDR will not conduct new public health investigations of the Santa Susan Field Laboratory Site as a result of the recent petitions.”

ATSDR’s statement validates previous studies that found potential for SSFL contaminants to cause harm, particularly the studies conducted by UCLA and University of Michigan teams under ATSDR funding. The agency’s response also indicates that it endorses the current SSFL cleanup requirements and plans.

In September, former SSFL researchers, public health, community, and workers’ advocates appealed to ATSDR to cease it’s involvement with SSFL, noting that refuting prior health studies conflicted with the agency’s mission and that it had no jurisdiction or expertise on cleanups. The Ventura County Board of Supervisors and LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl also asked ATSDR to not intervene in SSFL, and a petition signed by over 500 community members implored the agency to stay out.

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