Monday, June 06, 2005

EPA, Defense Department Touting Pro-Industry Study On Safe Levels of Rocket-Fuel Chemical Perchlorate in Drinking Water

A study used to determine "safe" levels of the rocket-fuel chemical perchlorate in drinking water is fueling a controversy.

The study -- funded with $310,250 from perchlorate manufacturers and users Lockheed Martin, Kerr-McGee, Aerojet and Boeing -- was used to support Defense Department arguments for a 200 parts per billion limit on perchlorate in drinking water, saying that such a level had "no effect" on those studied.

If the perchlorate levels are adopted, perhaps the Bush Administration will call it the "Clean Water Initiative," or some other similar Luntz-ian phrase.

In February, the Environmental Protection Agency used the research -- the so-called "Greer" study, named after the lead researcher, the late Dr. Monte Greer -- as a guideline for setting future limits on perchlorate in drinking water. Strangely, that decision rejected the work of the agency's own scientists, who in 2003 found "considerable uncertainty" in the data, and questioned whether the data's small test group could reliably determine anything. The EPA, using primarily animal studies, estimated in early 2002 that 1 part per billion in water was known to be safe.


The Greer study was published in 2002 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. But the authors failed to report the effects on the individuals, instead mathematically summarizing the data in ways that made it impossible to see potential effects, Michael S. Hutcheson, head of the air and water toxics division for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, told the Press-Enterprise of Riverside, Calif., for a June 3 story.

The unpublished data, obtained by the Press-Enterprise, showed that the research team in 2000 had 37 people drink water laced with tiny amounts of perchlorate. Seven people were given the lowest dose and became the basis of the study's reported "no observed effect level." Of those, a 34-year-old woman had a 39 percent reduction in iodide absorption and a 46-year-old woman had a 36 percent reduction. Three others had increased function, including one whose absorption increased by 39 percent.


Critics such as Massachusetts environmental chief Robert W. Gollege Jr., told the Press-Enterprise that the Greer study tested too few people for too short a time to provide the basis of national policy. The federal government too liberally applied the test of seven healthy adults to millions of more vulnerable people -- including babies, fetuses and people with impaired thyroids -- several scientists said to the newspaper.

Last week, Connecticut and Maine environmental health officials published a scientific paper disputing the Greer study's conclusions. The officials contend the "safe" level accepted by the EPA "is higher than what is needed to protect public health with a reasonable margin of safety."

Those at a greater risk are babies, said the paper by Gary Ginsberg and Deborah Rice, public health officials, respectively, in Connecticut and Maine. They said they were especially concerned because of studies that have found perchlorate in breast milk.

But for now, the Bush administration is sticking with the Greer study's results -- not surprisingly picking the most pro-industry research.


So why is the Bush Administration moving forward with such a questionable study?

According to the Press-Enterprise, study co-author Richard Pleus, a Seattle-based toxicologist and a consultant for corporations that have used or made the chemical, and other industry-hired consultants began touting the study to water conferences, newspapers and the White House Office of Management and Budget. Industry and Defense Department scientists repeatedly said that 1 part per billion didn't make sense, that it would trigger expensive and unnecessary cleanups and that 200 parts per billion is safe for everyone, including fetuses and babies.

To settle the dispute between the EPA and Greer studies, the Bush administration in 2003 asked the nonpartisan National Academy of Sciences to evaluate. When the academy panel completed its work earlier this year, the Greer study prevailed.

Still, the National Academy suggested that to protect the most sensitive people -- fetuses, babies and the half-percent or more of the population with under-performing thyroids -- it considered a "no-effect" dose of 24.5 parts per billion. The National Academy also suggested testing 90 healthy adults for as long as six months to clarify how chronic exposure affects people. It's unclear if those recommendations will be adopted.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the end, it appears that the panel used to mediate the differences sided more with the Administration than with the EPA. Apparently, there was more to the study than you would have us believe. Nice how you snuck that in there right at the end. Since you were questioning the Bush administration's policy, do you not think it pertinent to point out that the arbiter for this sided with the administration? You kind of snuck that admission in there in the same manner that Krugamn issues his non-correction "corrections".

1:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't see the problem with JABBS' story. It shows that the Bush administration sided with a pro-industry report (no surprise).

It suggests that the reports' authors may have played with the data before publishing (no surprise).

And it shows that scientists disagree with the report, and thus with the Bush administration (no surprise).

Why do conservatives fear a healthy debate? (no surprise)

10:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now we know why Christie Whitman stepped down as EPA head. Say what you want about the "Queen of Mean," but Whitman did have a soft spot for the environment. Anyone who as studied her New Jersey Development and Redevelopment Plan, can attest to the former Garden State Governor's passion for keeping things green. A trait Bush obviously does not admire.

11:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It shows that the Bush administration sided with a pro industry report AND that the panel empowered to mediate the differences found that report to be right.

12:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But, if you read JABBS story, there are allegations that the original report did not properly identify those who had gotten sick from the perchlorate.

Hey, I don't know this stuff, and I'm sure you don't either, unless you are a toxicologist. But if a bunch of scientists say the Greer study played with the math, and they have other evidence to counter that study, and THE EPA's own report from three years ago disagrees, and the National Academy of Sciences recommendation came with at least two other suggestions on ways to protect the young, old and pregnant, don't you think that's reason for the Bush administration to take a step back, not simply endorse a pro-industry report, and weigh the pros and cons before proceeding?

12:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's see, a "bunch" of scientists view it one way, and for argument's sake, we will assume that they are 110% completely unbiased. A larger group of scientists, as well as the panel empowered to arbitrate this matter, view the findings differently. Apparently, those that disagree would have us believe that only matters that receive unanimous consent from all parties are to be considered.

I still fail to see how this is a story, or how it proves what jabbs wants it to prove. There are disagreements over studies all the time, in every field, and ultimately, some decisions have to be made. To this reader, this falls in the category of Bush did it, therefore it is wrong.

12:43 AM  
Anonymous joe said...

You either aren't reading the article, or you are blindly supporting anything Bush does -- even if it means hurting your fellow Americans. Which is it?

The original research team didn't provide accurate data when reporting its findings. It mushed together the math to make everything seem ordinary -- and since the co-author is a pro-industry chemist, that's what you would expect.

The EPA, under Bush, found that high levels of perchlorate were dangerous. Only when this pro-industry study (backed by the industry, with data mushed to come up with a response that supports the industry) was released, did the Bush administration ask that the studies be compared.

Then the NAS says that the other study is reasonable, but they also say that 200 parts per billion is too high (they propose 24.5) and they ask for additional testing.

But to date, the Defense Department has ignored those NAS requests, and merely gone forward with the pro-industry study results.

Now, you don't see anything fishy about that? You think everything is fine?

Fine, you drink the water with 200 parts perchlorate per billion, and we'll see how your thyroid reacts.

11:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i heard they have come up with something in the water that will only affect democrats. and that Bush has ignored these findings. hmmm......

2:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

why do you bother coming here if you are just going to say inane things? aren't there enough WE LOVE BUSH sites for you?

2:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

of course but what if i dont love bush. what if i dont particularly like him but dont have blind hatred for him? please provide sites for that....if you think this isnt one

4:25 PM  
Anonymous rob of wilmington, del. said...

I honestly don't see this site as blind hatred for Bush.

I think JABBS has three angles:

1) The media is lazy, and too easily accepts conservative spin as fact.

2) Bush says things, but doesn't always back it up with action. For example, Bush says we're safer, but then orchestrates a no vote on Democratic-led legislation to fund port security, nuclear and chemical plant security, etc.

3) Bush has given unprecedented support to propaganda (VNRs, paid journalists, Jeff Gannon, hand-picked questions and audiences for "town hall" meetings, etc.

I think these are all valid things to discuss, which is why I read JABBS' posts.

Criticism of the president is one of our constitutional rights, you know. Calling it "blind hatred" is stooping to the lowest common denominator, don't you think? Or should we all just accept everything our leadership says as the truth, never question any of it, and so on?

4:34 PM  

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