Academy to mediate debate over rocket-fuel contaminants. (Environmental Health)

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Author: Rebecca Renner
Date: Mar. 21, 2003
From: Science(Vol. 299, Issue 5614)
Publisher: American Association for the Advancement of Science
Document Type: Article
Length: 829 words

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Should tens of millions of U.S. residents worry that their children's drinking water is contaminated with tiny amounts of a rocket-fuel ingredient? The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says yes; the Department of Defense (DOD) and the defense and aerospace companies that manufacture or use the chemical, perchlorate, say no. Now, hard on the heels of a senator's call for rapid regulatory action, EPA, DOD, and several other agencies have agreed to let the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) settle the issue. But some scientists are worried that the new study may be more of a way to delay new standards than a quest for truth.

Both sides agree that perchlorate can decrease thyroid hormone levels, and thyroid hormone levels affect brain development. But EPA relies primarily on lab animal data that show effects at low levels of exposure, whereas the defense groups emphasize human data that show no such effects. A January 2002 EPA draft report recommended a drinking water concentration of 1 part per billion (ppb) as safe for human health, whereas DOD says the number is likely to be much higher.

The academy study will push back the final version of the EPA toxicological review, which had been expected early this year, says William Farland,...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A99849700