2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: CPEO Moderator <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: 12 May 2003 14:19:55 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Food risk test spurned
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Food risk test spurned

Four years ago, the Air Force agreed to examine whether a rocket-fuel
chemical called perchlorate is ending up on America's dinner plate.

The study was considered essential for federal officials to determine
how much perchlorate the public might be ingesting and to help calculate
potential health risks, especially to newborns. Scientists planned to
examine lettuce and other crops from the Imperial and Coachella valleys,
irrigated with perchlorate-tainted Colorado River water.

But the study never was done.

Instead, the Air Force spent its money determining whether perchlorate
can be found in cactus mice, mosquito fish, Bermuda grass and other
wildlife. Most study areas were next to defense facilities contaminated
with perchlorate, according to federal records obtained by The

The military potentially could have to pay billions of dollars to clean
up the pollution nationwide.

Previous government research showed that greenhouse lettuce absorbed
perchlorate from irrigation water. Most of the nation's winter lettuce
crop is grown in areas such as the Imperial Valley that use contaminated
Colorado River water, but the government had never confirmed whether
perchlorate was in commercial produce. Earlier this year, tests
commissioned by private groups, including The Press-Enterprise, detected
perchlorate in winter lettuce purchased from grocery stores.

In the wake of such tests, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the
Food and Drug Administration now say they plan to move forward with a
crop study.

The story of how the Air Force pursued habitat research at the expense
of a food study unfolds in hundreds of e-mails exchanged among the Air
Force, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and others over nearly
four years. The Press-Enterprise obtained the e-mails through a Freedom
of Information Act request. They show:

 In November 1999 the Air Force received $500,000 in Pentagon funds for
two studies: perchlorate in crops, and in wild plants and animals. But
all the money went to the wildlife study.

 When unexpected expenses increased the projected cost of the crop
study, the Air Force in the spring of 2000 pressed the Department of
Agriculture for financial assistance. When none came, the Air Force
blamed the department for stalling the study.

 In October 2000 the Air Force discovered it had extra research money.
Air Force officials favored spending that money on other environmental
studies instead of the stalled food study.

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