After Decades of Debate, EPA Releases New Arsenic-in-Tap-Water Standard; NRDC Welcomes Progress, Calls for Lower Standard in Near Future

WASHINGTON (January 17, 2001) - The Environmental Protection Agency regulation announced today for arsenic in drinking water, which is five times more stringent than the one it replaces, will mean that fewer Americans will contract cancer from drinking water, according to NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). "It’s a significant step forward for public health," said NRDC Senior Attorney Erik D. Olson.

EPA’s final arsenic standard of 10 parts per billion (ppb) will lower allowable levels of arsenic in tap water from the current standard of 50 ppb, an outdated standard established in 1942. EPA, however, had proposed a new arsenic standard of 5 ppb in June 2000 -- half the level in the final rule. The new arsenic standard was higher due to pressure from industry groups and other agencies within the Clinton administration.

"The new rule will help alleviate the deadly problem of arsenic contamination in tap water consumed by millions of Americans," said Olson. "But we are disappointed that EPA, which wanted a tighter standard, could not fight off regressive industry lobbyists who care little about public health. We urge the agency to lower the arsenic level in drinking water to a level of 3 ppb or less when carries out its mandatory review of the standard sometime in the next six years."