EPA Mulls New Limits for Perchlorate Contamination

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to publish by February new nationwide standards limiting the amount of the rocket chemical perchlorate allowed in U.S. drinking water. As part of the effort, the EPA has assembled a panel of experts to weigh in on the maximum amount to be allowed.

That expert group held its first public meeting in Washington July 18 and July 19 where officials reviewed an EPA white paper outlining the scientific evidence on perchlorate’s impact on human health published since 2005. The paper, “Life Stage Considerations and Interpretation of Recent Epidemiological Evidence to Develop a Maximum Contaminant Level Goal for Perchlorate,” published May 18, said that while there are no studies that show perchlorate’s impact on human health, scientific evidence suggests that pregnant women, fetuses, infants and children are likely to suffer from exposure to the chemical.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works in February 2011 that EPA studies showed perchlorate in drinking water can cause thyroid problems and may disrupt the normal growth and development of children in the womb. The EPA is seeking to determine the perchlorate concentration that produces no known or anticipated effects on human health, according to the white paper.

The decision to focus on studies produced since 2005, which was the last time the National Research Council examined the issue of regulating perchlorate, is being questioned by the research arm of the Perchlorate Information Bureau, which includes companies that produce or use the chemical. “The Perchlorate Study Group has urged the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board panel on perchlorate to, among other things, consider the full body of perchlorate science rather than only an unrepresentative sample of studies published since 2005, as proposed by EPA,”  the Perchlorate Information Bureau said in a statement issued July 20.

In 2005, the EPA determined that a perchlorate level of 245 parts per billion in drinking water was not expected to cause adverse effects on human health. A decision to lower the level of perchlorate allowed in water supplies would force companies to pay for additional cleanup costs without producing any health benefits, said Bill Romanelli, spokesman for the Sacramento, Calif.-based Perchlorate Information Bureau.

The Perchlorate Study Group is supported by Aerojet, a GenCorp Inc. company; American Pacific Corp. of Las Vegas; Minneapolis-based Alliant Techsystems; and Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda, Md. American Pacific Corp.’s Western Electrochemical Co. of Cedar City, Utah, is the sole U.S. producer of the ammonium perchlorate used in solid-rocket propellant.

 

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