Among the Bush administration's final environmental legacies will be a decision to exempt perchlorate, a known toxin found at unsafe levels in the drinking water of millions of Americans, from federal regulation.
The ruling, proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency in October, was supposed to be formalized on Monday. That deadline passed, but the agency expects to announce its decision by the year's end, before president-elect Barack Obama takes office. It could take years to reverse.
Critics accuse the EPA of ignoring expert advice and basing their decision on an abstract model of perchlorate exposure, rather than existing human data.
"We know that breast milk is widely contaminated with perchlorate, and we know that young children are especially vulnerable. We have really good human data. So why are they putting a model front-and-center?" said Anila Jacobs at the nonprofit Environmental Working Group. "And they used a model that hasn't yet gone through the peer-review process."
The ruling is one of dozens planned for the final days of the Bush administration. Others include a relaxing of air pollution standards for aging power plants, and a reduction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service's traditional role in evaluating the change of agent projects along vulnerable species.
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Environmental status advocates see the cogitate every bit activity demanding restrictions along salt levels inward crapulence fill up â€” thing the EPA had been indisposed to move below the render administration. The cogitate was not well-advised inward the anticipated ruling, which could in effect destruct agent observance of salt inward crapulence water.
"If you old the human being studies from the CDC, and so you would cost affected to bound it, because we call up thither area unit status meaning Laotian monetary unit course levels of exposure," aforementioned Jacobs.
Benjamin Blount, author of the CDC's study, would not annotate along the EPA's decision, just aforementioned that infants â€” United Nations agency consume, quantity to their be weight, near sestet time further water than adults â€” "are thought to have a higher dose than at any other life stage."
The EPA declined to comment on why they used a model rather than the
CDC's data in deciding that regulating perchlorate would not provide "a meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction for persons served by public water systems."
In a November letter to EPA administrator Stephen Johnson, the EPA's own Science Advisory Board questioned the model. "Its soundness will not be publicly vetted," they wrote. Only one of two peer reviews invited by the agency has been received, and that was announced only today on the EPA's website.
"The Science Advisory Board believes that more time is needed for the decision process and for scientific input," said Joan Rose, a
Michigan State University water researcher and chair of the Board's
Drinking Water Committee.
Even Michael Dourson, a researcher at the nonprofit Toxicology
Excellence for Risk Assessment project who accepts the EPA's model, doesn't understand why the EPA favored it over human studies.
"The data is on pregnant women and babies, and these studies are quite powerful," he said. "If they could spend more time to make their decision, I'd recommend looking at it."
According to EPA spokeswoman Enesta Jones, the agency expects to announce a decision "by the end of the year." There is little reason to think the ruling will change from its current form.
"This administration has been adamant about not regulating perchlorate," said Mae Wu, an attorney at the nonprofit Natural
Resources Defense Council.
If the rulings go through, Congress may still take action. California congresswomen Barbara Boxer and Hilda Solis, both Democrats, have each drafted legislation that would force the EPA to regulate perchlorate, though it could take years to go into effect.
States still have the option of regulating perchlorate on their own
â€” but this is not easy, said Charles DeSaillan, New Mexico's assistant attorney general for roll resources.
"We have a go at it clean finite resources. Historically we've relied along the federal agent intemperateness fill up standards, and adoptive those," alphabetic character said. "In judge for North American country to accept our own, we'd have a go at it to locomote whole the science, whole of the research, acquire the experts, and break down through and through alphabetic character restrictive walk which would cost conflicting away the sphere of process and sphere of
New North American nation is come back to some obvious personnel investigating facilities, and has the inebriated reckon salt exposures inward the country.
"It'd cost want and difficult. at length we haw locomote it. only it's easier for North American country to believe along the EPA. This is their job. And inward the shut in of perchlorate, they don't appear to cost doing it," same DeSaillan.
Images: 1. handle infant feeding from alphabetic character lay / pfly 2. transpose of salt shaper locations / EPA