EPA to Americans: Drink rocket fuel!

Feds refuse to regulate common toxin in drinking water.

Published October 4, 2008 12:26PM (EDT)

Amidst news of the Wall Street bailout and the release of Sarah Palin's tax returns, this was one Friday-afternoon announcement from the Bush administration that was easy to miss. It was yet another instance of the Environmental Protection Agency declaring that it plans to do not much of anything much to protect the environment or your health.

This time the toxin in question is the main explosive ingredient in rocket fuel known as perchlorate, which has been discovered in drinking water in some 35 states, much of it lurking there thanks to the carelessness of the Department of Defense and the aerospace industry. Friday, the E.P.A. announced that it will do nothing to regulate the amount of perchlorate that's safe to drink in water, despite the fact that by the agency's own reckoning perchlorate is found in the drinking water of 16.6 million American. The agency is taking public comment for the next 30 days before finalizing its decision.

Exposure to the toxin may cause thyroid problems in women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The chemical is known to contaminate breast milk. The health risks have led Massachusetts and California to enact their own regulations of the chemical in water supplies.

The EPA's do-nothing decision raised the ire of Sen. Barbara Boxer, who said in a statement: "The Bush EPA's failure to set a standard for perchlorate, a dangerous contaminant found in drinking water, is outrageous and I will do everything in my power to reverse it. Perchlorate contamination endangers the health of our families, especially pregnant women and children, and to simply allow it to remain in our drinking water is immoral."

How many more days until the next President takes office again?

By Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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