The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) have been sued in federal court under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for their alleged failure to produce data and research relating to the herbicide atrazine. Beveridge & Diamond, P.C. v. HHS, No. 10-1713 (U.S. Dist. Ct., D.D.C., filed October 7, 2010). According to the complaint, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is conducting a comprehensive atrazine review that includes the research of a NIEHS research scientist who worked for EPA in the past. The plaintiff allegedly sought the researcher’s data from EPA, but was told she had taken all of her material to NIEHS.

NIEHS has allegedly failed to respond to the plaintiff’s request for data, information and reports related to Dr. Suzanne Fenton’s research on atrazine. The plaintiff alleges, “It is critical that NIEHS promptly provide the requested information to allow for meaningful and appropriate public review and analysis of this information.” The FOIA request was for everything on atrazine in Fenton’s files going back to January 2000 as well as correspondence with others about it. The plaintiff seeks a declaration that the agencies’ failure to disclose the requested records is unlawful, an order requiring the agencies to disclose the records and attorney’s fees.

In August 2010, NIEHS announced that Fenton’s research “shows that male rats prenatally exposed to low doses of atrazine, a widely used herbicide, are more likely to develop prostate inflammation and to go through puberty later than nonexposed animals. The research adds to a growing body of literature on atrazine, an herbicide predominantly used to control weeds and grasses in crops such as corn and sugar cane. Atrazine and its byproducts are known to be relatively persistent in the environment, potentially finding their way into water supplies.” See NIH News, August 24, 2010.