The Environmental Protection Agency may be using bad data for decisions -- and the consequences are far-reaching.
Due to out-of-date policies, potentially fraudulent data found in EPA laboratories may be passed along to staff for various types of usage, a new agency inspector general report found.
What constitutes laboratory fraud? "The deliberate falsification of analytical and quality assurance results," according to the report.
This could mean fabricating data, intentionally calibrating equipment wrongly or manipulating analytical results.
There are numerous consequences when bad data is used, according to the report.
"The possibility that false negatives were reported" — or when a report says potentially hazardous compounds were not present when they were, is the most serious consequence, the report reveals.
Intentionally falsified or fraudulent data can not only impact the public's trust in the EPA, but it could could have "serious implications for protecting human health and the environment from hazardous or toxic substances," the report says.
Intertek Testing Services, for example, was fined $9 million for falsifying test results of environmental tests, which were used for decision making at hazardous waste sites to determine safety and monitor the waste, according to the report.
A survey of EPA staff found a majority were unaware there were policies regarding the bad laboratory data.
Furthermore, the EPA does not have a policy on communicating information with states and parties during investigations into the fraud.
It is the job of the EPA's Office of Environmental Information to "ensure quality data and provide management controls to guard against the use of poor or low quality data in EPA decisions," according to the report.