Bush admin on perchlorate in drinking water: we'll get to it . . . maybe

It contaminates the water supplies of about 11 million people in 35 states. It is suspected of interfering with iodide cycling in a way that could suppress thyroid hormone, a hormone necessary for the proper development of the fetus. Its source is military bases and aerospace companies. The health and environmental agencies of affected states have been waiting years for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate it. A decision may come "before the end of the year" (just after the election):

Benjamin Grumbles, the EPA's assistant administrator for water, said the EPA will decide by the end of the year whether to regulate perchlorate. Scientific studies have shown the chemical blocks iodide and suppresses thyroid hormones, which are necessary for the normal brain development of a fetus or infant.

"We know that perchlorate can have an adverse effect and we're concerned about that," Grumbles told the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. (Marla Cone, LA Times via San Jose Mercury News)

Sounds good. But is the Bush EPA really going to do anything?

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who chairs the committee, told Grumbles that she heard from EPA staffers that there is a strong likelihood that the agency will decide against setting any standard for perchlorate.

In response, Grumbles said that is "a distinct possibility."

The Pentagon opposes any standards, using "there's no proof at these levels" argument we hear from chemical companies. Too expensive, they say. Perhaps billions to make American citizens safe from a hypothetical threat. You mean like taking our shoes at the airport? You mean like $12 billion a month in the Iraq War?

Whatever. Meanwhile two states, California and Massachusetts, are tired of waiting and have enacted or proposed their own perchlorate standards. Boxer thinks it's time for Congress to step in. Heaven forbid, say the new far right champions of federal rep-emption (when it favors them):

Senator James Inhofe, the top-ranked Republican on the committee, said Boxer's legislation assumes officials should regulate perchlorate.

"My concern isn't that these chemicals may be harmful to human health at a certain level," Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, said in a statement, "but rather that politicians feel compelled to introduce legislation forcing EPA's hand on what could become a `contaminant of the month' scenario without scientific backing." (Bloomberg)

Now he wants congressional staff to stay out of it and leave it to the Pentagon-industry friendly Bush EPA to handle things. He was joined by fellow far right hypocrite Chris Bond, Republican Senator from Monsanto:

At the hearing, Sen. Christopher Bond, R-Mo., a committee member, said telling the EPA when and how to act is "the very definition of political regulation. It is politicians here in the Senate dictating the outcome of EPA's environmental decision-making." (LA Times)

Imhofe, may we remind you, is the far right whack job who has his staff researching climate change to refute the world's top climatologists; and Bond is notorious for interfering in any environmental regulation that involves protection from chemicals and hazardous wastes. They are both moral and intellectual perverts who distort any argument and set of facts for their own benefit and the benefit of their patrons and paymasters.

Meanwhile the EPA intends to take its own good sweet time deciding if the public should be kept safe. I guess California's Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's staff has better access to scientific information:

George Alexeeff, deputy director of California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, told the committee that California had "sufficient data" to act two years ago, when his agency determined how much perchlorate was safe.

Alexeeff said the state was particularly concerned because the Colorado River, a primary drinking water source for Southern California, is contaminated. Contamination also is widespread in much of the Los Angeles region.

The chemical also is found in dairy products and food crops, as well as human breast milk and baby formula. Scientists reported in 2005 that it is contaminating "virtually all" human breast milk samples. (LA Times)

Maybe the breast milk and baby formula data didn't get to the EPA yet. I hear that interagency mail delivery can be very slow.

More like this

Recently we posted on the EPA highly unusual (as in unprecedented) decision to reject Californian's new greenhouse gas regulations. Why did they do it? Good question and one the California Congressional delegation wanted an answer to. To whom did EPA talk about the regulations? Who advised them to…
Earlier this week, a special report in the Oregonian uncovered the recent efforts by the White House and Pentagon to stymie the Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to recommend safe levels of perchlorate (a component in solid rocket fuel) for water. Alex Pulaski reports in "Pentagon…
For years, advocates have been calling on policymakers to reform the nation’s outdated chemical safety laws. Today, two such bills stand before Congress — one that advocates say better protects the public’s health and another that advocates warn is a dangerous step backward. Introduced in the…
As last week’s Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing made abundantly clear, communities throughout the United States are at ongoing risk from potentially disastrous incidents involving hazardous chemicals. A new Congressional Research Service report released concurrently by Senator…

Revere-Isnt perchlorate a break down product of ammonia and sodium. We get both from pee obviously but is that the source of this particular problem or is it legal/illegal dumping into the surface water?

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 17 May 2008 #permalink

Randy: Perchlorate may occur naturally in some locations but is mainly the result of contamination from industrial, military or agricultural sources. The pentagon and aerospace companies are responsible for a great deal of it, hence their opposition to any standards. Here is the wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perchlorate

Ok and thanks......It was one of the chemicals that were found in that old military site I posted on before that made ammo, star shells and artillery rounds.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 17 May 2008 #permalink

This kind of stuff never makes sense to me. I mean, on some level I can understand the "screw 'em" mentality that thinks it's ok to poison other people, on the basis of geography, class, race, nationality, or all of the above. I think it's vile, but I can understand the self-centered mindset that leads to it.

Stuff like this... does everyone they know never drink anything but Evian? I mean, these people have kids and grandkids, right? Where's the disconnect? I know some people are just disbelievers in any science that tells them anything they don't wanna hear... but do that many of them work at the EPA?

And, I know, it's difficult to get a man to understand something when his paycheck depends on him not understanding it, but...

Wait, I think I just answered my own question. (If not current paycheck, future paycheck, like all the lawyers who delayed filing fraud charges against the company marketing aspartame, and then went to work for their law firms.)

Randolph -

No, perchlorate cannot be formed as a reaction of ammonia and sodium. There is, however, an ammonium perchlorate.

How many milligrams per kilogram per day are in the water? Perchlorate, below 7 micrograms per kilogram per day, is used to treat thyroid disorders.

"Too expensive, they say. Perhaps billions to make American citizens safe from a hypothetical threat. You mean like taking our shoes at the airport? You mean like $12 billion a month in the Iraq War?"

Revere - that is a beautiful analogy. I must commend you.


At the hearing, Sen. Christopher Bond, R-Mo., a committee member, said telling the EPA when and how to act is "the very definition of political regulation. It is politicians here in the Senate dictating the outcome of EPA's environmental decision-making."

Bond didn't seem to have the same problem in 2001 when Congress decided to dictate the repeal of OSHA's ergonomic standard. Sounds like that was "the very definition of political (de)regulation."

By Jordan Barab (not verified) on 19 May 2008 #permalink

As an aside, how useful are those off-the-shelf water filters (Pur, Britta, etc.) for removing stuff like this?

By albatross (not verified) on 20 May 2008 #permalink

Not to peddle my video shamelessly but, the industries responsible put together a pair review group and a friend and professor was asked to look at these studies.... Dr. Michael Collins, and I asked him for an interview.

Ya Don't Mis the Water is a five part video on water issues in Southern California (and in affect, elsewhere).... This is final section the first part focuses on the various issues of perchlorate.... biologically, socially, and the mitigation problems.


Perhaps a distinction should be made between EPA scientists and the higher-ups that are more influenced by policy. I hope things change after the election.