"The Obama administration promised to end political meddling in scientific decisions, but some critics say the White House botched an early test on a key question of public health: how to assess the danger of industrial chemicals.
At issue is a government catalog of toxic substances that guides regulators, industries and the public on the dangers posed by certain chemicals. Environmentalists think the hazards should be assessed solely by scientists free from political influence.
But guidelines issued by the Environmental Protection Agency last month carve out a role for 'White House officials' -- which could give presidential aides the ability to influence scientific deliberations.
Critics blame the George W. Bush administration for undermining the EPA's toxic chemical database by delaying the process and injecting its policy preferences.
The database, known as the Integrated Risk Information System, was created in 1985 to provide regulators with reliable scientific information on the risks of exposure. It covers more than 500 chemicals that could affect public health -- including dioxin, perchlorate and formaldehyde."