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The Toxic Horror Story of Nancy Beck

By Zach Brown

The U.S. Consumer Protection Safety Commission (CPSC) is a little-known agency, but it has a big responsibility to ensure that the products in our homes are safe. It has responsibility for ensuring that more than 15,000 products are safe, including toys, household products, furniture, cribs, and recreation equipment including all-terrain vehicles. The Commission is largely non-political, but would become increasingly so if President Trump’s nominee to lead the CPSC were confirmed.

President Trump nominated longtime industry insider Nancy Beck to be chair of the CPSC. Public Citizen finds her record problematic and urges the U.S. Senate to strongly oppose her confirmation.

Nancy Beck’s path to this nomination is riddled with numerous shortcomings that make her a deeply problematic selection. She spent several years as a staffer at the Bush administration’s White House Office of Management and Budget. While there, the non-partisan National Academy of Sciences criticized a guidance document she wrote as “fundamentally flawed,” “simplistic” and “of serious concern,” and unanimously recommended that it be withdrawn. Later, Beck left to join the American Chemistry Council, a trade organization representing America’s chemical companies. Although her title was Senior Director of Regulatory Science Policy, given her actions, it’s ironic that the term “science” was even included in her official job title. Nancy Beck was nothing more than a chemical industry lobbyist, actively discrediting scientific research on the harmful effects of dangerous chemical products in order to advance the organization’s corporate interests. While there, Beck pushed zealously to relax federal guidelines around the use of chemicals that have been scientifically proven to be harmful to human health.

Beck returned to government in  2017, and joined the leadership at the Environmental Protection Agency (you know, the federal organization explicitly formed to…protect the environment). While there, Nancy Beck continued her troubling trend of deregulation, pushing for weak safeguards for toxic chemicals attacking scientifically based standards and even going as far as referring to potential dangers from chemical products as “phantom risks” not to be taken seriously. Notably, Beck may have even used her influence to downplay the risks of PFAS, a harmful substance in household products known to increase risks of cancer, liver damage, asthma, thyroid disease, and fertility problems.

Furthermore, it’s been recently reported that Beck, now detailed to the White House, according to some press reports, played a role in suppressing detailed science-based guidelines that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sought to release to help the country reopen in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Beck is neither a public health official, medical doctor, nor a virologist, so it remains a mystery why she was in charge of making such important public health decisions—other than having a reputation for advancing an ideological agenda even when the views are out of the scientific mainstream.

Given Beck’s troubling record weakening rules that protect consumers and downplaying science to suit her ideological viewpoint, the Senate should quickly reject her nomination. But don’t just take our word for it. Ken Cook, President of the Environmental Working Group,  stated: “Nancy Beck is the last person who should be in charge of safeguarding the American people from dangerous consumer products… once again, we see the president appointing someone who will work to subvert the mission of the agency she would head.”

More than 100 consumer and environmental groups oppose her nomination. The administration has a history of allowing the proverbial fox to guard the henhouse. Nancy Beck may be the most dangerous henhouse nominated by the Trump White House.

Public Citizen will continue to advocate against Nancy Beck’s nomination. Nancy Beck’s toxic horror story of a resumé has already put the American people through enough. The American public who count on being protected from dangerous products deserve a good ending by seeing this nominee rejected since lives are literally on the line.