A top Environmental Protection Agency official told a Senate committee recently that there was “a distinct possibility” that the agency would not limit the amount of perchlorate, a toxic ingredient of solid rocket fuel, that is allowable in drinking water. State officials and water suppliers across the nation have been waiting for the EPA to set a standard for several years because perchlorate has contaminated the water supplies of at least 11 million people. Last year, California, tired of waiting on the EPA to act, set its own standard. The EPA will decide by the end of the year whether to regulate perchlorate. Scientific studies have shown that the chemical blocks iodide and suppresses thyroid hormones, which are necessary for the normal brain development of a fetus or infant.
The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which is chaired by Barbara Boxer (D-CA), is conducting the hearing. When the EPA representative told the senators that it was “a distinct possibility that the agency would take no action.” Senator Boxer was not very happy to hear that the EPA might not even set a minimum standard. The Senator says the EPA is leaving Congress with little choice but to act on its own. She has introduced two bills that would order the testing of water supplies for perchlorate and require the EPA to set a standard within one year, based on scientific evidence showing what levels can cause harm to fetuses. Senator Boxer warned:
Congress will not sit idle while EPA fails to adequately protect our children. We must step in to require action that will ensure that our children and families can turn on their taps and be assured that what comes out is safe to drink.
Much of the water contamination comes from military bases and aerospace plants, as well as fireworks companies. The Pentagon and its contractors for years have been lobbying against a federal standard, saying there are no proven health effects at levels to which people are exposed, and that cleaning up perchlorate could cost billions of dollars. George Alexeeff, deputy director of California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, told the committee that California had “sufficient data” to act two years ago, when his agency determined how much perchlorate was safe. California officials were particularly concerned because the Colorado River, a primary drinking water source for Southern California, is contaminated. Contamination is also widespread in much of the Los Angeles region, particularly in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. The chemical also is found in dairy products and food crops, as well as human breast milk and baby formula. Scientists reported in 2005 that it was contaminating “virtually all” human breast milk samples.
Source: Los Angeles Times
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