Issue Date: January 29, 2018
U.S. Congress probes environmental health institute director
Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives are calling for an investigation into whether Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, violated an antilobbying law. In a Dec. 18 editorial summarizing a special PLOS Biology issue on chemical regulation in the U.S., Birnbaum and one of the journal’s editors urged citizens to “work to ensure our government officials pass health-protective policies based on the best available scientific evidence” (PLOS Biol. 2017, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.2004814). Reps. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chair of the House Science Committee, and Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), chair of the environment subcommittee, say such statements are prohibited by a law that forbids executive branch employees from lobbying Congress using federal funds. Birnbaum’s editorial “does exactly what the Anti-Lobbying Act prohibits: it targets the general public to persuade citizens to communicate certain issues to elected representatives,” the congressmen wrote in letters sent to the Department of Health & Human Services on Jan. 17.
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