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FEATURE

EPA Against Limiting Rocket Fuel Ingredient in Tap Water





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The EPA has issued a draft regulation ruling that states it will not limit perchlorate, an ingredient in rocket fuel, in drinking water:
[The EPA] will not set a drinking-water safety standard for perchlorate, a component of rocket fuel that has been linked to thyroid problems in pregnant women, newborns and young children across the nation.

According to a near-final document obtained by The Washington Post, the EPA's "preliminary regulatory determination" -- which was extensively edited by White House officials -- marks the final step in a six-year-old battle between career EPA scientists who advocate regulating the chemical and White House and Pentagon officials who oppose it. The document estimates that up to 16.6 million Americans are exposed to perchlorate at a level many scientists consider unsafe; independent researchers, using federal and state data, put the number at 20 million to 40 million.

The conclusion has drawn fire from both Congress and environmental organizations who cite perchlorate's interference with thyroid function and implications in developmental disabilities in infants and unborn children.

"This is a widespread contamination problem, and to see the Bush EPA just walk away is shocking," Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) stated in response to the decision.

The EPA's draft states that paying for a cleanup would not present "meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction for persons served by public-water systems."

"They have distorted the science to such an extent that they can justify not regulating" the chemical, said Robert Zoeller, a University of Massachusetts professor who specializes in thyroid hormone and brain development and has a copy of the EPA proposal. "Infants and children will continue to be damaged, and that damage is significant."

Zoeller said scientific studies have shown that a small reduction in thyroid function in infants can translate into a loss of IQ and an increase in behavioral and perception problems. "It's absolutely irreversible," he said. "Even small changes in thyroid functions early on have impacts on functioning through high school and even into people's 20s."

A reference to those studies in the EPA's proposal was deleted by OMB officials.

Environmental groups accuse the EPA of succumbing to Pentagon pressure in an effort to both reduce costs and limit the Pentagon's liability exposure... Continued...

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