John A. Todhunter

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John A Todhunter was a toxicologist who briefly ran the Pesticides and Toxic Substances division of the EPA under Anne M Gorsuch during the Reagan Administration. In 1983 the Secretary for the Interior, James Watt, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Anne Gorsuch Burford, Rita Lavelle one of the EPA's Deputies and John Todhunter were all fired, followed by more than 20 of the EPA's lower-level appointees.

Gorsuch had been handpicked by Joseph Coors and his Colorado associates in the Republican/Reagan kitchen cabinet. Her tenure enraged environmentalists, who tied her to the equally controversial policies of her friend and fellow Coloradan, then-Secretary of the Interior James Watt. Gorsuch's second husband, Robert Burford was a cattle baron who had vowed to destroy the Bureau of Land Management; President Reagan made him the Bureau's head.

Under instructions from the president (according to a book she later wrote) Anne Gorsuch enthusiastically gutted EPA's budget by sixty percent, crippling its ability to write regulations or enforce the law. She appointed lobbyists fresh from their careers with paper, asbestos, chemical and oil companies to run each of the principal EPA departments. Her chief counsel was an ex-Exxon lawyer and ther head of enforcement came from General Motors, and virtually all of her subordinates at the EPA came from the ranks of the industries they were charged with overseeing.

Both Republicans and Democrats attacked her handling of the agency. Eventually, following a congressional investigation into sweetheart deals with polluters (including Coors), Gorsuch and twenty-three of her cronies were forced to resign (for misleading Congress), and her first deputy, Rita Lavelle, was jailed for perjury. . [A year later Reagan, seeking to reward a loyalist, appointed her to the chairmanship of the National Advisory Committee on Oceans and the Atmosphere]. [2]

The indictments and resignations put a temporary damper on Reagan's kitchen cabinet appointments, Joseph Coors and the Sagebrush Rebels ... but they quickly regrouped as the "Wise Use" movement. Coors then threw his political-leverage funds at Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute, which became Washington's favourite 'libertarian' think-tank

Documents & Timeline

1950 Born (31 years of age in August 1981) He is a native of Cali, Colombia, South America.

These three green entries appear in some biographies and not others. Perhaps dubious claims.

 ?? date Instructor at California State University in Los Angeles.
1974-76. He served as a teaching assistant, research assistant, and Regent's Fellow at the University of California at Santa Barbara
1976-78. He was a Fellow in the Dept of Biochemistry, Roche Institute of Molecular Biology, Hoffman LaRoche, Inc., in Nutley, N.J.

Dr. Todhunter received a B.S. degree from the University of California in 1971, an M.S. from California State University in 1973 and a Ph.D. from the University of California in 1976.

1978 Assistant Professor of Biology at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. and possibly Chairman of the Biochemistry Program . [1]

Todhunter also performed a highly controversial analysis of formaldehyde which the Office of Toxic Substances (OTS) had identified three years previously as a candidate for priority attention under the Toxic Substances Act. This new analysis deviated from known carcinogen risk analyses techniques, and it was said to rest "on a number of questionable assumptions." In the wake of these episodes the National Research Council recommended that the EPA develop formal risk assessment guidelines.



1980 Nov-Dec During the transition period from Carter to Reagan, Todhunter spoke to a meeting of the American Industrial Health Council (the AIHC was the Chemical Manufacturers Association's lobby organisation) on the subject of '"Science as the Foundation for Regulatory Decision-Making". [3] In this speech he emphasises that the general thrust.of the Reagan Administration and the regulatory team put together by Anne Gorsuch, (the new EPA Administrator), was to:

"... carry out the mandate of the laws which we are charged to administer and enforce, . including statutory deadlines and court ordered schedules and things of this type. However, in doing that we intend to take every possible effort to bring greater credibility to the science which is used in the decision-making and where possible to simplify the regulatory burden and reduce unnecessary costs to the public."

Among the changes he planned was to implement a scientific peer review system: "in order to avoid embarassing situations which have developed in the past," and to use" focused symposia on specific subjects in order to obtain and record comments from interested parties, particularly those from the scientific community." Todhunter summed up his overall objectives as:

"Our agency and our Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances is very committed to improving what we do scientifically and to improving our credibility, and I don't think that the public is well served by being taken continuously through an emotional wringer by a lot of short-cut science. We've got to distinguish between real problems and hypothetical problems."

1981 Jul 1 President Reagan nominated three top EPA officials at the beginning of his first term. Anne Gorsuch Burford (aka Anne M Gorsuch was to be the Administrator.

  • John Horton, to be EPA Assistant Administrator for Administration (ex New Jersey engineer and businessman)
  • John A Todhunter, Assistant Administrator for Pesticides and Toxic Subtances
  • Kathleen M Bennett, Assistant Administrator fo Air Noise and Radiation.

Administrator Anne Gorsuch filled new posts created as part of reorganistion:

  • Frank Shepherd, Associate Administrator for Legal Counsel and Enforcement (ex Miami lawyer)
  • Nolan E Clark Associate Administrator for Policy and Resource Maangement (Washington lawyer)
  • William A Sullivan Jr>. Associate Administrator for Legal Counsel and Enforcement (ex lawyer/consultant to steel communities)
  • Robert M Perry, EPA General Counsel (Houston corporate trial attorney)
  • John E Daniel, Chief of Staff for Administrator (ex lawyer and Washington Representative)
  • Thornton W Field, Administrator's special assistant for hazardous wastes (Denver attorney and regulatory affairs specialist)
  • Kitty Adams, special assistant for regulatory reform (environmental consultant and leg. assistant to US Senate)
  • Joseph A Cannon, special assistant for regulatory reform (Washington attorney) A known anti-smoker!. He later headed "Empower America".
  • Christopher J Capper, Special Assistant/Acting Assistant Administrator for Solid Waste and Emergency Response.
  • Paul Milbauer, special assistant to the Administrator and adviser on toxic substances
  • Byron Nelson III, Director, Office of Public Affairs (ex journalist and Senatorial press secretary)

See also biogs for Horton, Todhunter and Bennett. [4] OR [5]

Joseph A Cannon provided some protection for the continued work of James Repace who was constantly attacking the tobacco industry.
Christopher Capper suddenly disappeared from the EPA and was replaced by Rita Lavelle (who ended up in jail over perjury following the 1983 scandal.

1981 Jul One of the first acts of Anne Gorsuch, John Todhunter and Rita Lavelle at the EPA is to freeze the toxic-site clean-up process which they manage under the Superfund program, involving the awarding of contacts and grants. They are later accused of diverting some of this money to help Republican political campaigns. [6]

1981 Aug Appointment to the EPA as Assistant Administrator of the Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances (OPTS) at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the advent of the Reagan Administration.More than half of the federal regulations targeted for an early review by the Reagan administration's regulatory reform team were EPA rules. Virtually all of Anne Gorsuch Burford's subordinates at the EPA came from the ranks of the industries they were charged with overseeing.

1981 October Anne Gorsuch is attempting to move any control of Indoor Air pollution away from the Environmental Protection Agency which she also claims has no mandate in this area ("only ambient air"). Her inclination appears to be to dump the problem on the politicised OSHA. The National Academy of Sciences had just released a report calling indoor air pollution "a problem of immediate and great concern." yet the EPA is planning to eliminate all related research in 1982. [7]


Pesticides (EDB) - circa 1980-81
From the previous Carter administration period he inherited a decision to take regulatory action to suspend the pesticide Ethylene Dibromide (EDB) ... but he declined to do so. Instead, he produced his own 'alternative' EDB risk assessment which downplayed the risk. According to one EPA insider, this consisted of "back of envelope calculations."

Edward Johnson, a director of the Office of Pesticide Products (OPP) of the EPA testified to Congress that this reassessment was "an example of Todhunter playing scientist [and that he] used poor methods". He had also asked Anne Barton, a statistician at the EPA, to alter her risk estimates for EDB using an "obscure scientific theory she had never seen before (or after)."

In 1983 the OPP had presented toxicological evidence on EDB saying that "they had never seen a substance that caused so many tumours so quickly" in laboratory animals. They recommended that, because of EDB groundwater contamination, the use of EDB for soil fumigant should be immediately suspended, and this was done as an emergency measure in the same year.


1983 Mar Todhunter abruptly resigned, along with the EPA Administrator Anne Gorsuch, Deputy Administrator John Hernandez, and a number of other political appointees in key positions. According to Forbes magazine ...

In Todhunter's area of the EPA , the cut-regulation-cabal was blamed for the slow pace of Superfund cleanups. In March 1983 they resigned under fire during a scandal over mismanagement of a $1.6 billion program to clean up hazardous waste dumps This was enforced after the botched handling (including document-shredding) of evacuation of Times Beach, Mo., a small community plagued by dioxin pollution. Forbes Magazine, [8]] See Risk Policy Report overview of the fiasco in 1997]

1983 Dec 13 Sam Chilcote remarks at the Tobacco Institute's Annual Meeting following the sudden departure of Anne Gorsuch and John Todhunter from the EPA.

...We are establishing and building upon our relations with the Federal agencies dealing in this area. In the process of bringing in new leadership, the administration's nominee for head of the EPA is Lee Thomas. The good news is that we understand he is a reasonable man. The bad news is that under Thomas will be two men in key positions who are known anti-smokers. Joseph Cannon, Assistant Administrator for Air, in charge of the $75,000 study mentioned in Mr Milway's comments, and James Repace, who claims that cigarette smoke in the air kills between 500-5,000 nonsmokers annually. [9]

1984 He claims to have been an Expert Advisor, World Health Organization, Europe Regional Planning Consultation on Risk Management (1984)

1990 Oct to June 1992 Todhunter and his partner W Gary Flamm were among a very large number of scientists recruited by the tobacco industry to provide critical comments on the EPA's ETS Risk Assessment -- seen as an attempt to regulate passive smoking. [10] [11]

The EPA's draft risk assessment had classified ETS as a Class A carcinogen. [12] Every scientist on a long list giving evidence was a long-term tobacco industry scientist. Todhunter was available also to make comments to the press critical of the EPA. [13]

1994 Todhunter joined the IAQ testing company Science Regulatory Services for a while in 1994, working (either with or under) W Gary Flamm a well-known tobacco lobbyist.

After leaving the EPA he helped establish Science Regulatory Services International, and began providing services to corporate clientsr. He continued to operate through Science Regulatory Services International)

It is not clear whether Todhunter and Flamm are partners, or whether they just have related companies with slightly different names -- of perhaps just operate in different areas of the market place.

1997 A 1997 issue of Risk Policy Review says that because of Todhunter's poor handling of the 1983 EDB issue:

"The news media were handed a juicy storyline that included unseemly official conduct, bumbling bureaucrats, and horrific public health threats contained in something as familiar as a bread wrapper.... [Competing agendas] filled the vacuum, whipping the public into a frenzy and further eroding trust and confidence in public institutions." [14]

Other Affiliations

World Health Organisation (WHO): His curriculum vitae (from tobacco industry files) [15] shows that he has also served as:
Expert Advisor, Wor1d Health Organization, Europe Regional Planning Consultation on Risk Management (1984)

American Council on Science and Health (ACSH): He is involved in this chemical lobbying organisation run by Elizabeth Whelan.[16]

The ACSH was funded by the major Chemical Manufacturers, and Todhunter also worked for them, as did his associate Paul Cammer. These organisations are all so close that if you work for one, you work for them all.


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