WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 12, 2007) - Abdicating once more its responsibility to set regulations that protect people’s health, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that it will not initiate any regulatory action on perchlorate, a widespread, hazardous contaminant that puts millions of Americans at risk everyday, according to scientists and public health experts at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
As in the past, EPA’s justification for the lack of regulatory action was the need to collect more data. This, despite the availability of data on measurable levels of perchlorate in both women’s breast milk and cow milk for sale in supermarkets, as well as in numerous common food items. Perchlorate has even been found in human urine, proving it is in our bodies. Data indicates that exposure to perchlorate poses a risk of brain damage in children born to women with low iodide levels (approximately 36 percent of US women have low iodide).
“By delaying a standard for this highly toxic contaminant, EPA is jeopardizing the health of millions of Americans,” said Dr. Jennifer Sass, NRDC Senior Scientist. “Nine years ago, EPA published its draft health assessments for perchlorate, but it still has not finalized any enforceable drinking water standard for this toxic rocket fuel additive.”
Perchlorate is a serious and significant threat to drinking water sources in the United States: over 400 public water systems, large and small, report perchlorate in their water. EPA itself has acknowledged that if it were to use standard default assumptions – setting drinking water limits of no more than 5 parts per billion (ppb) of perchlorate in drinking water – its own data show that over 120 public water systems, serving 14.4 million people would be above the limit. (One ppb is equivalent to ½ tsp in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.)
Recently, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced two bills aimed at regulating perchlorate. One directs EPA to establish a drinking water standard for this toxic chemical that would protect the health of pregnant women and children. The second bill assures that tap water is tested for perchlorate and that the public is notified when drinking water is contaminated.
EPA also announced today it will not regulate 11 other drinking water contaminants, nor will it initiate a regulatory action on MTBE (Methyl tert-butyl ether), a flammable liquid which is used as an additive in unleaded gasoline. Drinking or breathing MTBE may cause nausea, nose and throat irritation, and nervous system effects.