The results of an investigation into the activities of Consumer Product Safety Commission chairman Terrence M. Scanlon are expected to be released soon -- perhaps today -- by the Senate Commerce Committee.
A source close to the committee said yesterday that in light of the General Accounting Office report -- given to the committee on Nov. 20 -- "the Scanlon nomination is expected to go through." Scanlon is now serving a recess appointment.
The committee requested the GAO investigation after receiving testimony at Scanlon's September confirmation hearing that he used his staff and other government resources to perform work for the antiabortion movement.
The GAO was also asked to investigate whether Scanlon violated CPSC rules governing meetings with companies and whether he provided internal agency information to firms that were targets of CPSC investigations of suspected safety violations.
Scanlon has repeatedly denied the allegations, made at the hearing by Joan Claybrook, president of the Public Citizen lobby.
Claybrook said in a letter to the committee that she had more than 30 names of people who could back up her allegations. But one key source of the allegations refused to talk to the investigators without subpoena protection, according to sources inside and outside of the commission.
"How can committee sources predict approval of the nomination when a key source has not even be interviewed?" asked Claybrook yesterday. "I find this investigation to be most unusual -- or is it an investigation?"
A committee source said "the committee will know what this person not interviewed by the GAO has to say before it acts on the Scanlon nomination."
NEW PAINT STRIPPER . . . Dow Chemical is close to a possible breakthrough in producing a paint stripper with "considerably less concentrations" of methylene chloride, one of the chemicals spilled at Union Carbide's West Virginia plant last summer, according to CPSC commissioner Stuart M. Statler.
Consumers face a greater cancer risk from paint strippers and spray paints containing methylene chloride than from any other consumer product, the CPSC staff said earlier this year.
Statler said it is hoped that, within six months, large amounts of paint strippers would have "significantly reduced levels of methylene choloride."
"We have the makings of a possible breakthrough," said Statler.
About 600 million pounds of methylene chloride are produced or imported annually, according to estimates by the Environmental Protection Agency.
As many as 3,000 of every million persons exposed to paint strippers containing the chemical under "reasonably foreseeable consumer uses" may develop cancer over their lifetimes, the commission staff has estimated. In contrast, the cancer risks from urea formaldehyde, used for residential home insulation, are 50 in every million people, according to the CPSC.
The CPSC staff has been meeting with industry representatives to discuss ways to minimize or eliminate the risk from methylene chloride. The chemical is manufactured by Dow Chemical Co. in Midland, Mich., by LCP Chemicals West Virginia Inc., by Diamond Shamrock Corp. in Dallas, and by Vulcan Materials Co. in Birmingham, Ala.