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PSR-LA Welcomes ATSDR Decision to Reverse Course on Santa Susana Field Lab

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 7, 2015
CONTACT: Dr. Robert Dodge, MD & Denise Duffield, 213-689-9170 office, dduffield@psr-la.org

Physicians’ Organization Welcomes ATSDR Decision to Reverse Course on SSFL
Involvement from Troubled Federal Agency Would Have Jeopardized Cleanup of Toxic Site, Public Health

PSR-LA's Denise Duffield talks to media at demonstration protesting ATSDR involvement at SSFL

PSR-LA’s Denise Duffield talks to media at demonstration protesting ATSDR involvement at SSFL

(LOS ANGELES) Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles (PSR-LA) today applauded the decision by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to reverse its decision to insert itself into the cleanup of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL), a contaminated nuclear and rocket engine testing site located 30 miles from Los Angeles.

“ATSDR was asked by a former SSFL official to come in and declare that SSFL posed no risk to public health, despite prior independent health studies funded by ATSDR that clearly indicate otherwise,” said Dr. Bob Dodge, a PSR-LA Board Member. “They were also asked to recommend breaching the agreements for a full cleanup, which would leave dangerous radionuclides and toxic chemicals onsite where they would continue to migrate offsite and impact nearby communities. ATSDR’s decision to stay out is welcome.”

In August, ATSDR announced that it had accepted a petition asking it to refute past SSFL health studies and weigh in against the site cleanup. The petition was submitted by a former manager at SSFL and current consultant to the Department of Energy, one of the polluters at the site that is responsible for cleanup.

ATSDR’s acceptance of the petition was met with swift condemnation by local elected officials, researchers who conducted previous SSFL studies, cleanup advocates, and community groups, who called the move a disingenuous ploy by the polluter to get out of cleanup obligations. Cleanup advocates also objected to misinformation circulated about ATSDR’s involvement at SSFL which suggested that the agency was going to conduct a new health study.

“The truth is, ATSDR was not asked to and had not planned to conduct any new health study of SSFL.” said PSR-LA Associate Director Denise Duffield. “ATSDR was not going to do any new sampling or generate any new data. It would have merely reviewed past data – most of which were collected by Boeing, the polluter. The fact that Boeing issued a statement denying health impacts from SSFL and boasting of ATSDR involvement says volumes about what the pre-determined outcome would be.”

The Ventura County Board of Supervisors asked ATSDR to stand down, noting that ATSDR “did not consult with local elected officials or the independent epidemiological investigators prior to accepting the petition.” Los Angeles Supervisor Sheila Kuehl also requested that ATSDR reverse course, referring to her past efforts in the state legislature to “ensure there would be no conflicts of interest in having the federal government study whether its own environmental failures caused harm and how much it might be required to pay in order to cleanup the contamination it created.”

In addition, a petition circulated by the Rocketdyne Cleanup Coalition generated over 500 signatures from community members asking ATSDR to stay out of SSFL, stating “There has been too much interference with and delay in carrying out the cleanup agreements already.”

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PSR-LA is the largest chapter of the national organization, Physicians for Social Responsibility, the American recipient of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the International Physicians for the Prevent of Nuclear War.