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Legislators Rally Around Scientist

April 7, 2008 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 86, Issue 14

Key House lawmakers say a federal scientist who was reassigned after alerting his superiors about risks from formaldehyde in trailers supplied to Gulf Coast hurricane survivors is a whistle-blower in need of protection. The scientist, Christopher De Rosa, also pushed for release of a withheld federal report on toxic substances in the Great Lakes. De Rosa is the former director of the division of toxicology and environmental medicine at the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR). The 28-year federal employee was removed from his post in October 2007 and demoted to what one congressional aide describes as "the job track to nowhere." In February, De Rosa was given a 90-day "personal improvement plan," which Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, describes as "a formal step toward termination." In recent weeks, Dingell and Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), chairman of the House Science & Technology Committee, have sent letters to ATSDR Administrator Julie L. Gerberding instructing her to protect De Rosa from retaliation. On April 1, Gordon asked Gerberding to reinstate De Rosa to his old job and suspend the personal improvement plan. Congressional investigation into the case continues. De Rosa has appealed his reassignment to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.


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