Covid-19 could hamper the EPA’s ability to inform communities of health risks, according to a report released this month from the agency’s Office of Inspector General.
Specifically, the inspector general’s office worried the EPA might not be able to inform residents who live near facilities with emissions that could cause cancer. In a separate report from late March, the office urged EPA to take “prompt action” to inform communities.
As of the March report, the EPA and state agencies had not met with or reached out to residents around 16 of the 25 “high-priority” facilities, which are located primarily around cities in the South and Midwest.
The June report detailed other concerns, including personnel shortages and cutbacks to routine inspections.
The EPA did not respond to a request for comment.
The report detailed a number of systemic management and communication issues inside of the EPA, some attributed to the current virus accommodations.
The inspector general’s office noted that the agency’s lax regulation enforcement and communication efforts could lead to increased community health risks, especially those that are affected by the national efforts to combat coronavirus.
The inspector general’s March report focused on ethylene oxide emissions, which are carcinogens. These emissions are often the byproduct of chemical plants, including those that create sterilizing agents used throughout the pandemic, according to Chemical & Engineering News.
The report was concerned that increased productivity at some of these locations could increase emissions, which reinforced the need for affected communities to be aware of the pollutants.