Bush EPA high jinks again. Sigh.

Full disclosure: I know the toxicologist who is the subject of this post. Not well. But I know her and I know her work and she is, as the story from the LA Times says, a highly respected scientist. And no shrinking violet, which accounts for the fact that the Bush EPA has dismissed her from an expert panel on brominated flame retardants widely used in consumer products like upholstery and electronic equipment. Your body is also full of them. Well, at least that's true for some 90% of Americans. Maybe you are the one in ten. Back to the one in 300,000,000, the President of this country (for 324 days), George W. Bush, and his Environmental Protection Agency:

Under pressure from the chemical industry, the Environmental Protection Agency has dismissed an outspoken scientist who chaired a federal panel responsible for helping the agency determine the dangers of a flame retardant widely used in electronic equipment.

Toxicologist Deborah Rice was appointed chair of an EPA scientific panel reviewing the chemical a year ago. Federal records show she was removed from the panel in August after the American Chemistry Council, the lobbying group for chemical manufacturers, complained to a top-ranking EPA official that she was biased. (Marla Cone, LA Times)

Deborah Rice used to be an EPA scientist. Now she works for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. In that capacity she testifies in front of the legislature. And the chemical industry says her testimony shows that she is biased. I have news for them. They're right. Deborah Rice is biased. She is biased in favor of public health. She is intimately familiar with the evidence about this particular chemical. Was she supposed to lie under oath? Perhaps that would have qualified her for a position on a Bush panel but it's not what she is about. So she has an opinion, based on science.

I guess the EPA thinks that the 17 panelists who served on 7 EPA panels and who the Environmental Working Group found worked for or were funded by the chemical industry were free of any conflict or appearance of conflict. Cone mentions one example in her LA Times piece, an Exxon Mobil employee whom the EPA allowed to serve on a panel about the carcinogenicity of a gasoline additive. But Dr. Rice, who has studied this chemical from the public health point of view and rendered an opinion about it as a function of her job, is off the list.

So Deborah Rice, who has studied this chemical thoroughly is off the list because she knows a lot about the chemical and has a professional opinion about it. In fact all of her comments on the panel have been removed from the report along with all mention of her. She has become a non-person.

The kind of flame retardant at issue here is accumulating in the US population and being excreted in breast milk. Flame retardants are a good thing and probably save lives. But we need flame retardants that stay on the material they are protecting, not flame retardants that move with ease to people and have demonstrable biological effects in animals, especially neurodevelopmental effects, the area of Dr. Rice's research expertise.

This is just more of the same from the Bush administration. The big question is how much more damage will they do before new elections flush them from our environment in 324 days.

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Deb Rice's work (and voice) were critical in Maine where they recently banned decaBDE. The Maine ban was passed in May of 2007 and 2 months later she was removed from the EPA panel at the request of the Am. Chem. Council. Interesting coincidence.

The bromine industry is still fighting to keep decaBDE but they won't go out of business once deca is gone - we are already finding the next round of 'safe alternative' bfrs in your household dust. Stay tuned...

This is eerily similar to the story of Prof. Marc Edwards and his work regarding the DC lead crisis. He coincidentally was fired from an EPA consultant position because his findings were showing that the city and EPA caused a massive release of lead into the city's drinking water by switching the disinfectant from chlorine to chloramine. This was in 2004 and he's still fighting the EPA today after they've cut off his funding and launched a massive cover up operation to save themselves. The sad thing is, I don't think this is necessarily a "Bush's EPA" problem; the cronies in the EPA go much deeper than the top position.

I like to do crosswords, and I always get annoyed when there is a clue that says 'eco-friendly org.' and the answer is EPA. They actually do very little that is friendly, to the environment, scientists, or citizens in danger of health risks.

324 days...

I hate to be a little paranoid, but am I the only person who thinks that if we have a catastrophic disaster, such as a depression-like economical shift, that Bush will use a signing statement to extend his term--for continuity sake?

Sorry, I know this isn't the point of the post but I wouldn't put it past him and it's very depressing considering the damage that he's done.

K: I bow to no one in my contempt for this president and his disregard for the Constitution but I do not think an extension of his term by fiat is remotely possible politically. I don't even think he cares to stay. The job was a drag for him to begin with and he doesn't work at it especially hard. He is surrounded by manipulators who know exactly which buttons to push. So I think this is not in the realm of anything remotely plausible. Fortunately.

[Marc Edwards] coincidentally was fired from an EPA consultant position because his findings were showing that the city and EPA caused a massive release of lead into the city's drinking water by switching the disinfectant from chlorine to chloramine

I'm glad to see that someone else noticed this.

But of course there was nothing specific to DC. The same giant lead release has probably occurred in every single place where there are drinking water pipes containing old lead solder which is vulnerable to chloramine leaching. Which is about 75% of the national housing stock.

What was genuinely frightening was the testimony from Edwards about how the lead-infused tap water pegged the needle on his meter at the top. He diluted the sample 10:1 and tried again and it was still offscale high for lead. Repeated dilutions were required just to get something low enough for the meter to report accurately. Criminy.

My local water authority sent around a cheery circular saying "We're switching to chloramine for your protection!"

I called up. "What tests did you run?"

"Oh, sir, don't worry, it's perfectly safe."

"What tests did you run?"

"It's just like chlorine, only less so!"

"What tests did you run?"

Of course, they had not run any tests, because the Environmental Pretense Agency had told them that chloramine would be just fine, no worries.

Our household drinks and cooks with bottled distilled water nowadays. At considerable additional expense. So to sum up, in our water district, we are collecting some of the freshest, cleanest mountain watershed H2O to be had anywhere in North America, and we are then deliberately poisoning it with chloramine and fluoride compounds.

It would be cheaper to let people opt *in* to this loopy scheme if so inclined, and to add the various chemical crap to their own water with a simple countertop dispenser. Instead we have an expensive central mechanism from which we must opt out. Thanks a bunch, public authorities!

(Before anyone jumps on me: I am not disparaging the generic concept or worth of public health. What I find distressing is that it seems increasingly impossible in America to achieve genuinely competent and objective public health measures. Our system is too corrupt and our public are too ignorant for such models to function properly. To our collective detriment. What we get is, instead, an arrangement where public money is confiscated in order to put in place measures pushed by private interests, which then damage the public's health. I don't see that as a positive development in any degree.)


Here we go again. Bush Bash.... Nothing left to do today but give old George one in the tail end.

Revere, if it wasnt chloramine then it would be chlorine a huge ozone cutter as you well know. Its one of the reasons FOR the switch. I dont doubt your sincerity here as there is one hell of a lot of info that says chloramine aint so good for the fish, the fauna or the shellfish. Its toxic. Its supposed to be. Chlorine was too... did you bash up the Clinton Administration for suggesting that ALL water systems switch to it under HIS EPA... Nope! Nothing about the lead cutting from older water systems. Nothing bashing the annointed one up for that or any of his people. Even though they contributed to his re-election campaign. You know, that one in the 90's where even the Chinese got to influence our elections. Just like the illegal Mexican aliens.

Then there is the cost of switching to a reverse osmosis system, either in house or main house. We are not talking about some lightweight project. Marq is right though, this stuff is screwed up. They have had it here since the late 90's and it kills even the bacteria in the ditches if you dump your pool into it. Nice.

Do come up with something more than a Bush Bash for a problem that is inherent now as far away as Japan. Cant bash on Bush when this is a local problem, developed in the 80's and would seem at least to have been implemented for the better part in the 90's. Thats the Clingon Administration realm of responsibility. I wonder if they ever did any tests... Not if a campaign contribution was involved. Hey, lets talk flouride next. You can blame him for whiter teeth and cervical cancer too!

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 01 Mar 2008 #permalink

Randy, maybe he was bashing the wrong Bush if this started in the 80's and early 90's.
In house osmosis systems are not that expensive. We have one since we use spring fed pond water. We have a sediment filter, an iodine decontamination tank, and a taste and odor filter.
The hardest part is testing it every 2 weeks and altering the iodine concentration. Since our water source is an organic system that changes with each season or even rain fall, we must be diligent in making sure our water is safely decontaminated.
It tastes a hell of a lot better than city water, that's for sure.
Cost: Sediment filter came with the house.
Iodine tank and installation: $1000
Taste and odor filter: $250
Yearly cost: $250 for filter replacement and iodine
and testing system.
All of this goes with the house when we sell it as an improvement.
When we lived in California on city water, we were spending a lot more money per year on crappy tasting city water for a smaller household.

Randy: You are mixing up my post with someone else's comments. My post was about Deb Rice and deca PBDE (flame retardants). A (very knowledgeable) commenter pointed out that something similar happened around lead. The issue there was not the switch to chloramine but the cover up of a sudden lead release into the water distribution system. As for Bush bashing, yes. He deserves every bit of it and more. He is probably the worst and most disastrous president this country has ever known. There may have been others that were stupider and nastier but they weren't driving the supertanker that the US is today.