2005 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <lsiegel@cpeo.org>
Date: 11 Jan 2005 07:55:56 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Enviros react to NAS perchlorate report
Below are press releases issued by three environmental organizations -
the Environmental Working Group, Clean Water Action, and the Natural
Resources Defense Council - in reaction to the National Academy of
Sciences perchlorate report. Note that EWG, the organization that blew
the whistle on rocket fuel contamination in drinking water, computes a
lower drinking water standard, based upon the NAS findings, than other observers.



Press Release
January 10, 2005


OAKLAND, CA ? Today's National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report on the
toxic rocket fuel chemical perchlorate strongly supports the conclusions
of the EPA and the states of Massachusetts and California: that to
protect infants and children, exposures should be no higher than a few
parts per billion. The Academy completely knocked down the claim by
defense contractors and the Pentagon that high levels of the chemical in
drinking water are safe. 

When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets the safety
standard for rocket fuel in drinking water, the NAS findings will almost
inevitably lead it to a single-digit standard because:

(1) The NAS number does not take into consideration the fact that
children consume about 6 times more water, relative to body weight, as
adults, and the EPA will base its drinking water standard on what is
needed to protect children.

(2) The NAS number does not take into consideration additional exposure
to this chemical through milk and other foods, where it has been found
in nationwide tests.

Correcting for these differences, EWG calculates that the findings in
the NAS report support a national drinking water standard of no higher
than 2.5 ppb. The EPA and Massachusetts had earlier recommended a level
of 1 ppb, while California has recommended 6 ppb.

"The NAS findings almost certainly mean that when federal health
officials write a standard to protect children, we'll see a standard
that is even more protective than what the Academy recommends. This is a
complete and total rejection of the defense contractors' junk science,"
said EWG Senior Analyst Renee Sharp. 

For the original press release, go to


Press Release
January 10, 2005


Based on preliminary information, environmental and community groups
expressed sharp criticism of recommendations to be officially released
tomorrow by the National Academy of Science (NAS) that the "safe" dose
of perchlorate in drinking water, the primary component of rocket fuel
predominantly used by the Department of Defense and industry, is 20
times higher than the 1 ppb originally recommended by the U. S.
Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA).  

The higher level (less health protective) recommended by the NAS, they
say, is a direct result of unprecedented pressure from both the White
House and the Pentagon, in an attempt to offset liability and the costs
of providing alternative water and clean-up for affected communities.

The NAS assessment, which relies on one study of seven healthy adults,
leaves pregnant women, fetuses, and infants unprotected from the
negative health effects of perchlorate.

"It is a travesty when pressure from those with political and economic
power exert blatant influence on such a historically reputable
organization as the National Academy of Sciences.  Californians need to
know that these special interests have done an injustice to our children
and our communities," said Andria Ventura, Environmental Health
Organizer for Clean Water Action, a national environmental health
organization with offices in San Francisco.

This NAS panel has a history of conflicts of interests through some
members' close affiliation with companies responsible for large amounts
of perchlorate contamination in drinking water.  One, Dr. Richard Bull,
actually resigned from the panel after his ties to Lockheed Martin were
exposed.  Documents obtained by a closely allied environmental group
corroborate the influence the government and Defense Department had on
this NAS report.

The trouble, these groups say, began in 2002, when the USEPA proposed a
reference dose of 1 part per billion (ppb) for perchlorate in drinking
water, based on current research.  Despite the fact that to date,
polluting industries has financed the bulk of the studies conducted on
perchlorate's health effects, the USEPA's conclusions raised an outcry
from the Defense Department and industrial users of perchlorate. They
claimed that USEPA was basing its decision on a faulty animal study and
that the reference dose was much more stringent than necessary.  They
countered with claims that levels over 200 ppb of perchlorate in
drinking water did not threaten public health. To resolve this dispute,
the NAS panel was established to review current data on perchlorate and
determine a new reference dose based on that analysis.  

"Considering all that we still do not know about perchlorate's
cumulative effect on the body, we cannot afford as high a reference dose
as this. Americans may receive perchlorate doses through their drinking
water, as well as dairy, lettuce, and meat," said Pam Martin, citizen of
Rancho Cordova and member of the community action group that monitors
Aerojet's mitigation efforts on a perchlorate plume in the Sacramento
region. "It is vital that the reference dose be kept very low because of
the potential for exposure from many different sources."

In the absence of a federal drinking water standard, some states have
moved toward setting their own protective measures.  Massachusetts has
followed USEPA's lead by setting a guidance for drinking water of 1 ppb.
 California, on the other hand, has been criticized for caving into
polluters when the Office of Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) set the
State's public health goal (PHG) at 6 ppb.  Critics point out that the
perchlorate drinking water standard, which was mandated by law to be
completed by 2004, is over a year late thanks to stall tactics from
responsible parties, including a law suit against OEHHA over the peer
review process to determine the PHG.  

Over 350 California drinking water sources, including the Colorado
River, have been found thus far to contain perchlorate, affecting
approximately 20 million people.  That number will continue to rise as
contamination spreads in groundwater aquifers, and as private wells are
tested. In fact, a now defunct highway flare factory owned by Olin
Corporation has contaminated over 400 such wells in southern end of the
Santa Clara Valley (Morgan Hill, San Martin, and Gilroy).  The problem
is further complicated by recent studies that have shown that some food
items, including lettuce and milk, can be tainted with perchlorate when
crops are irrigated with  or animals drink contaminated water, creating
yet another route of human exposure.

"We know what a drop in thyroid hormone can do to infants and fetuses,"
said Lena Brook, Clean Water Action's California Associate Director. 
"We know perchlorate can cause such drops.  We know that drinking water
is not the only route by which we're exposed.  Consequently, we know
that we need the most stringent protections possible."  

Perchlorate interferes with the ability of the thyroid to take up
iodide, a necessary nutrient in the production of thyroid hormone. While
the effects on healthy adults may not be as acute, this poses a serious
threat to those with thyroid problems, developing fetuses, and infants. 
While perchlorate exposure in children cannot and should not be studied
directly, child development research has demonstrated that even
short-term reductions in thyroid hormone levels in fetuses and infants
can irrevocably impair brain development and lead to such problems as
learning and behavioral disabilities, abnormal gait, impaired hearing
and vision, and even mental retardation.  At higher doses, perchlorate
has been linked to thyroid cancer and effects on the immune system.  

"The primary thing to remember here is that people should not have to
drink water with a twist of perchlorate," says Ventura.  "An argument
about levels sends the message that some degree of contamination is
acceptable.  Instead, what people want, and deserve to have access to in
their water, is simply water."


Clean Water Action is a national citizens' organization working for
clean, safe and affordable water, prevention of health-threatening
pollution, creation of environmentally safe jobs and businesses, and
empowerment of people to make democracy work.
111 New Montgomery St. Suite 600
San Francisco, CA 94105


January 10, 2005



WASHINGTON (January 10, 2005) ? The National Academy of Sciences' (NAS)
report released today, which concluded that a higher exposure level to
the toxic rocket fuel ingredient perchlorate than recommended by the
Environmental Protection Agency is not harmful, could threaten the
health of millions of American children, said NRDC (Natural Resources
Defense Council). The NAS report recommended a level that is about 23
times higher than the one proposed by EPA and several states. 

According to documents released earlier today by the group, the NAS
panel's recommendation was likely shaped by a covert campaign by the
White House, Pentagon and defense contractors to twist the science and
strong-arm the academy. (For more information on the campaign, go to

"This recommendation confirms our fear ? that the White House, Pentagon
and its contractors were able to unduly influence the academy," said
Erik D. Olson, an NRDC senior attorney. "We've never seen such a brazen
campaign to pressure the National Academy of Sciences to downplay the
hazards of a chemical, but it fits the pattern of this administration
manipulating science at the expense of public health."  

The panel's recommendation for a level that would protect pregnant women
and babies is based on one weak industry study that fed perchlorate at
that level to only seven healthy adults for two weeks. "The industry
study tells us nothing about effects on babies or long-term perchlorate
exposure," said Dr. Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist at NRDC. "It
dismissed the rest of the studies, which is beyond comprehension."  

The panel also stated (on page 11 of the report) that "while studies are
being conducted, the committee emphasizes the importance of ensuring
that all pregnant women have adequate iodide intake and, as a first
step, recommends that consideration be given to adding iodine to all
prenatal vitamins."  

"It's like exposing pregnant women to cigarette smoke and telling them
to wear gas masks," said  Dr. Gina Solomon, a physician and NRDC senior
scientist. "To suggest that part of the solution for pregnant women is
to take vitamins to protect their babies from perchlorate exposure is
bizarre. It's too little, too late. The burden should be on polluters,
not pregnant moms, to protect babies from this toxic chemical."   

Even with the NAS panel's recommendation, it is still possible that EPA
and states could set a drinking water standard for perchlorate at 1
parts per billion to 4 parts per billion, said Dr. Solomon. After
considering total perchlorate exposure from all sources ? including
water, food and milk ? and after adjusting for body weight of fetuses
and newborns, drinking water standards for perchlorate could still wind
up low. 

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit
organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists
dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in
1970, NRDC has more than 1 million e-activists and members, served from
offices in New York, Washington, Santa Monica and San Francisco. More
information is available at NRDC's Web site, http://www.nrdc.org/.  


Lenny Siegel
Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight
c/o PSC, 278-A Hope St., Mountain View, CA 94041
Voice: 650/961-8918 or 650/969-1545
Fax: 650/961-8918
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