EPA to set limit for rocket fuel chemical in drinking water 3x higher than scientists recommend

“This is another Trump administration gift to polluters and water utilities that have lobbied to be off the hook for cleaning up the problem.”

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The Environmental Protection Agency is planning on weakening yet another environmental and health protection rule, this time by raising the threshold for a chemical found in rocket fuel. The EPA plans to triple the previous limit allowed in drinking water.

The chemical perchlorate, which is linked to thyroid problems, was previously set to 15 micrograms per liter of water. The EPA proposes a new limit of 56 micrograms per liter.

The EPA announced the plans last week and asked for public comments on the proposal. The agency has also proposed three alternate options: setting the level to 18 micrograms per liter, to 90 micrograms per liter, or abolishing the rule regulating perchlorate in drinking water.

This new EPA proposal comes after a decade of delay and a lawsuit by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), who are demanding the EPA set an enforceable standard for the chemical. The previous recommendation by EPA scientists, 15 micrograms per liter, was an advisory to help guide local and state limits but was not enforceable.

The NRDC says that scientists recommend a limit that is “10 to more than 50 times lower” than what the EPA is proposing.

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Scientists groups such as the Environmental Working Group (EWG) suggest a health-protective limit for 1 microgram per liter. Currently, only one state comes close to this: Massachusetts which shows 2 micrograms per liter in their drinking water. States such as Arizona, California, New Jersey, New York, and Texas regulate perchlorate in their drinking water, with California having a legal limit of 6 micrograms per liter.

“The science on perchlorate is very clear: It harms infants and the developing fetus,” said Olga Naidenko, Ph.D, senior science advisor at EWG. “Perchlorate can cause irreparable damage to both cognitive and physical development. Instead of taking action to lower the levels of this rocket fuel chemical in drinking water, the administration’s plan will endanger the health of future generations of kids.”

Perchlorate is found in rocket fuel, fireworks, airbags, matches, and signal flares and has been reported in bagged produce, milk, and different packaged foods.

The Trump administration’s EPA is fraught with officials who have worked for the chemical industry, including David Dunlap, former Koch Industries staffer who now serves as deputy EPA assistant administrator for research and development; Steven Cook, a former chemical industry attorney that now overseas Superfund sites; and Nancy Beck, who previously works as an executive at the lobbying group American Chemistry Council and now oversees the EPA’s toxic chemical unit.

“This is enough to make you sick—literally,” Erik Olson, senior director for health and food at NRDC. “This is another Trump administration gift to polluters and water utilities that have lobbied to be off the hook for cleaning up the problem.”

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