The Trump EPA calculated recommended limits of a dangerous chemical sometimes found in drinking water that can harm babies’ brain development that were more than 9 times higher than those imposed by a few states by fudging a key number in the calculation.
The Trump recommended a limit for perchlorate, which can harm infant brain development, of 56 micrograms per liter, far above the limit of 6 that California imposed and 2 that Massachusetts set, more than a decade ago.
“I guess they think it’s just fine to have children have IQ loss,” said Betsy Southerland, a retired EPA official who oversaw science and technology issues in the EPA Office of Water.
Perchlorate, which a GAO study found in the water, soil or sediment of 45 states, is particularly dangerous to babies because it can harm infant brain development if their mothers are exposed to it in food or water while pregnant. Babies can also ingest perchlorate in their mothers’ breast milk or in formula.
Scientists account for uncertainty in calculating such limits with what is known as the “uncertainty factor” to protect the most vulnerable such as infants. Our nation’s public health agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention used a factor of 10 for perchlorate. The Trump EPA cut that by 2/3s to 3.
EPA spokesman Ken Labbe did not have a response for DCReport.org about how the limits were calculated.
Massachusetts virtually eliminated perchlorate from its public drinking water supply with its limit. Testing between 2001 and 2003 found perchlorate levels of 4 micrograms per liter or higher in water systems nationwide serving more than 16.6 million people. Bleach, which water systems use to disinfect water, can degrade into perchlorate. The chemical is also in rocket fuel.
Tell EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler your thoughts on regulating perchlorate. Call Wheeler at 202-564-4700 or write to him at EPA Headquarters / William Jefferson Clinton Building / 1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW / Mail Code: 1101A / Washington, D.C. 20460.
The American Water Works Association, which has urged that perchlorate not be regulated, paid for a study that found faults with a more rigorous model that the Obama administration would have used to set limits for perchlorate. The Trump EPA cited that study in recommending the laxer limits.
Neltner said the Trump EPA cherry-picked which studies to use in setting the recommended limit. The Environmental Defense Fund had recommended a limit of 4 micrograms per liter.
“You really get one chance to build a brain,” Neltner said.
The Trump EPA could also impose limits of 18 micrograms or 90 micrograms per liter or decide against regulating perchlorate. The federal advisory limit is 15 micrograms. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler will have the final say.
The proposed regulation is the first new standard the EPA is putting forward for an unregulated contaminant in drinking water in more than 23 years.
Cleaning up perchlorate contamination can cost millions. The EPA reached a $1.1 billion settlement in 2014 to clean up a former chemical manufacturing site in Henderson, Nev. The chemical contaminated Lake Mead.
Texas leads fight to end protections for Native American children
The top legal officers of Texas, Louisiana and Indiana—all Republicans—are trying to end legal protections that make it more difficult for child welfare agencies to tear apart Native American families.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton argued that the Indian Child Welfare Act violates the equal protection guarantee of the Fifth Amendment because children are put into one of two child welfare systems based on whether they are Native American.
Judge blocks effort to destroy San Francisco Bay salt ponds
A federal judge rejected an attempt by the Trump EPA to classify saltwater ponds near the San Francisco Bay as “merely a component” of a salt plant’s “industrial processing activity” that shouldn’t be protected under the Clean Water Act.
Judge William Alsup wrote that the Trump EPA “misapplied the law” and ordered the agency to reevaluate the salt ponds. Cargill Inc., the nation’s largest privately held company, wanted to develop nearly 1,400 acres of the shoreline along the San Francisco Bay in Redwood City.
Here’s why you don’t want to live in a Republican-run state
A few weeks back I did a post noting that states governed by Republicans had the highest positive test rates, while the states with the lowest positive rates were mostly governed by Democrats. I argued that positive test rates are a good measure of how serious the governors are in trying to bring the pandemic under control.
While they can take measures to limit the actual spread, such as longer and stronger lockdowns and mask requirements, many factors determining the spread are outside their control. By contrast, they do have control over the amount of testing, although legislatures can play a role, since they can appropriate or restrict funding. Testing has also become a political issue, since Donald Trump explicitly said that he wanted to see testing slowed so as to reduce the number of cases identified.