Daily News Archives
From January 20, 2005

National Research Council Calls Rocket Fuel In Drinking Water Safe
(Beyond Pesticides, January 20, 2005)
Perchlorate, a rocket fuel pollutant, has been detected in the drinking water supplies of 35 states - raising serious alarm. Tuesday, a recent National Research Council study claimed that EPA’s assessment of “safe” levels of human ingestion of perchlorate is 20 times more protective than necessary, according to a recent article from Environment News Service.

According to the article, EPA set a drinking water concentration of perchlorate, based on body weight and daily water consumption, of one part per billion (ppb) (corresponding to a 2002 proposed a daily reference dose of 0.00003 milligrams per kilogram of body weight). Several states have adopted the 1 ppb limit.

Perchlorate, also used in road flares and fireworks, is a toxic chemical that can interfere with the thyroid gland by hampering its ability to absorb iodide – a process critical to the normal creation of thyroid hormones. Even a slight tampering of the thyroid system can result in serious damage in neurological development and endocrine and central nervous systems in fetuses and children. Apparently, the National Research Council also said EPA's assessment relied too heavily on animal studies and disputed the agency’s conclusion that exposure can lead to thyroid cancer.

In 2003, the Bush administration ordered the National Academies’ National Research Council (NRC) to perform a review of EPA’s assessment of perchlorate.

Pentagon officials and arms manufacturers, who face hefty bills for cleaning up water contaminated with perchlorate, argued that any perchlorate level below 200 ppb in drinking water is safe,” writes ENS. “The panel agreed the reference dose used by the EPA was too high and determined daily ingestion of up to 0.0007 milligrams per kilogram of body weight can occur without adverse health effects.“

According to the ENS, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) have internal government documents showing “‘uncommon, extensive involvement by White House and Pentagon officials to limit the scope of NAS' inquiry and select the panelists, as well as collaboration among the White House, Pentagon and DOD contractors to influence the panel.’

Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, said the documents obtained by NRDC show that ‘once again, the administration has let its friendships with special interests groups stand in the way of protecting the health of the people of this country.’

Bush administration officials denied the allegation and the National Research Council said the report was not subject to political influence.”

Jim Reisa, director of the NRC's Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology vehemently defended the Council's study saying that it was part of a vigorous peer review process.

This is the second time the prestigious and usually well-trusted NRC has come under intense heat for producing highly questionable conclusions in the name of science and toward the aim of protecting public health.

The last time was in February last year when a NRC review concluded that pesticide testing on humans is ethical if done with the right protocols (see Daily News story). That position was later well-disputed in analysis by author and doctor, Alan Lockwood (see Daily News story). Still, the NRC is quickly being cast in a new light under an administration that has been accused by renowned scientists themselves of distorting scientific findings and manipulating experts’ advice (see Union of Concerned Scientists report).