Academy Succumbs to Pentagon-White House-Industry Pressure, Recommends Perchlorate Safety Level that Fails to Protect Children
WASHINGTON (January 10, 2005) -- The National Academy of Sciences' (NAS) report released today, which concluded that a higher exposure level to the toxic rocket fuel ingredient perchlorate than recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency is not harmful, could threaten the health of millions of American children, said NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). The NAS report recommended a level that is about 23 times higher than the one proposed by EPA and several states.
According to documents released earlier today by the group, the NAS panel's recommendation was likely shaped by a covert campaign by the White House, Pentagon and defense contractors to twist the science and strong-arm the academy. (For more information on the campaign, click here.)
"This recommendation confirms our fear - that the White House, Pentagon and its contractors were able to unduly influence the academy," said Erik D. Olson, an NRDC senior attorney. "We've never seen such a brazen campaign to pressure the National Academy of Sciences to downplay the hazards of a chemical, but it fits the pattern of this administration manipulating science at the expense of public health."
The panel's recommendation for a level that would protect pregnant women and babies is based on one weak industry study that fed perchlorate at that level to only seven healthy adults for two weeks. "The industry study tells us nothing about effects on babies or long-term perchlorate exposure," said Dr. Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist at NRDC. "It dismissed the rest of the studies, which is beyond comprehension."
The panel also stated (on page 11 of the report) that "while studies are being conducted, the committee emphasizes the importance of ensuring that all pregnant women have adequate iodide intake and, as a first step, recommends that consideration be given to adding iodine to all prenatal vitamins."
"It's like exposing pregnant women to cigarette smoke and telling them to wear gas masks," said Dr. Gina Solomon, a physician and NRDC senior scientist. "To suggest that part of the solution for pregnant women is to take vitamins to protect their babies from perchlorate exposure is bizarre. It's too little, too late. The burden should be on polluters, not pregnant moms, to protect babies from this toxic chemical."
Even with the NAS panel's recommendation, it is still possible that EPA and states could set a drinking water standard for perchlorate at 1 parts per billion to 4 parts per billion, said Dr. Solomon. After considering total perchlorate exposure from all sources - including water, food and milk - and after adjusting for body weight of fetuses and newborns, drinking water standards for perchlorate could still wind up low.