View Full Version : Drink at your peril.

01-11-2005, 09:36 AM
Dangers of Rocket Fuel Chemical Downplayed

By Rob Stein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 11, 2005; Page A03

A chemical from rocket fuel that has seeped into drinking-water supplies nationwide is safe at higher doses than federal environmental officials had concluded, according to a report released yesterday.

The chemical, perchlorate, can be ingested at doses more than 20 times those deemed safe by the Environmental Protection Agency, an expert panel convened by the National Academy of Sciences concluded.

The conclusion was praised by defense contractors facing potentially billions of dollars in cleanup costs but denounced by environmental activists, who accused the Defense Department, defense industry and White House of exerting undue influence on the panel.

The assessment is considered crucial for the EPA, which is establishing the first national standards for the pollutant, and for dozens of states that have been setting their own standards for cleaning up military and industrial sites to try to safeguard drinking water.

"[This] should protect even the most sensitive populations," said Richard B. Johnston Jr. of the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver, who chaired the panel.

Perchlorate is used in a variety of industrial processes, but contamination in the United States comes primarily from rocket fuel. Concern has been rising about its safety in recent years as the substance was detected in soil and drinking water around the country.

Perchlorate has been found in at least 35 states, and more than 11 million people have significant levels in their drinking water. The Food and Drug Administration also recently found the substance in milk and lettuce.

At high doses, perchlorate can interfere with the thyroid gland, which helps regulate many bodily functions. Animal studies have suggested it could cause thyroid tumors. In children, the thyroid plays a major role in development, raising fears that exposure to perchlorate by pregnant women and young children could cause brain damage.

The health concerns prompted the EPA to begin drafting the first national standard for safe levels, and in 2002 the agency concluded in a draft assessment that perchlorate levels in drinking water should be no higher than 1 part per billion. That prompted protests from the Defense Department and defense contractors, which face potentially billions of dollars in cleanup costs. They maintained that the substance posed no danger even at levels several hundred times as high.

In an attempt to resolve the dispute, the federal government asked the National Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, to convene an expert panel to examine the issue.

After spending months reviewing all available scientific evidence, the 15-member panel concluded that humans could safely ingest levels as high as 0.0007 milligrams per kilogram of body weight, which is more than 20 times the dose of 0.00003 milligrams per kilogram that the EPA had recommended. The committee did not translate that into parts per billion of drinking water.

The committee said it concluded that perchlorate was much less likely to cause thyroid tumors in humans than the EPA had determined because humans are much less susceptible to disruption of thyroid functions and formation of thyroid tumors than are rats, the subjects of earlier studies.

"The committee concludes that the development of thyroid tumors, as an ultimate result of perchlorate-caused inhibition of thyroid iodide uptake, is unlikely in humans," the report said.

The committee based its conclusions largely on a 2002 study in which healthy men and women were given daily doses of perchlorate for two weeks without experiencing any signs of significant thyroid dysfunction -- a finding supported by four other studies of healthy subjects, the committee said. To set a safe threshold, the committee recommended using an "uncertainty factor" of 10 and permitting only one-tenth of the highest doses used in that study.

But environmental activists denounced the findings and released documents that they said showed the committee had been subject to unprecedented pressure by the White House and Defense Department.

"The Defense Department's job is to protect Americans, not threaten our health, but these documents show that it is conspiring with its contractors and the White House to twist the science and avoid cleaning up a chemical that threatens out children's health," said Erik D. Olson of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "We've never seen such a brazen campaign to pressure the National Academy of Sciences to downplay the hazards of a chemical."

The Pentagon referred questions to the White House, which, along with an academy official, dismissed the accusations.

"The academy has an outstanding reputation for objectivity, which is why the administration sought their analysis," said Deputy White House Press Secretary Trent Duffy. "This administration always says decisions should be made on sound science, and they're the experts," he said of the National Academy of Sciences.

The EPA will incorporate the panel's findings in its deliberations as it formulates a national standard, a White House official said.

The nation's largest defense contractor praised the report.

"Lockheed Martin believes the . . . review process is highly credible and we feel the [academy] is in a position to make the best recommendation based on the available science," the company said in a statement.

<hr /></blockquote>

Quite simply, the rules have been changed because otherwise it would cost certain parties too much money.

A blatant case of corporate interests over the public health.
Rocket fuel!!!???? 35 States?


01-13-2005, 08:38 PM
OMG! The sky is falling! Lol.

The article is misleading. The EPA's guidelines on perchlorates set the range between 4-18 ppm. There are no current regulations on perchlorate concentrations.

The National Academy of Sciences conducted a pretty thourough study on the issue, and determined that there is no scientific reason to be concerned about current levels.
NAS Perchlorate Panel Hears Latest Findings From Experts

May 25, 2004

Woods Hole, MA - New research on the effects of perchlorate on pregnant women, infants and adults was presented to a special panel of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) yesterday, with preliminary findings suggesting that perchlorate levels ranging from non-detect to 110 parts per billion (ppb) have no effect on pregnant women and infants, and that perchlorate with levels as high as 10,000 ppb has no effect on healthy adults.

The preliminary findings were presented by John Gibbs, M.D., vice president of Health Management and Corporate medical director, Kerr-McGee Corporation, and Jonathan Borak, M.D., Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine &amp; Epidemiology, Yale University, working with the Perchlorate Study Group. Summaries of the reports are as follows:

"Chronic Environmental Exposure to Perchlorate in Drinking Water and Thyroid Function During Pregnancy and Neonatal Period." The study found no impacts from perchlorate on the mothers during the critical period between the late first and early second trimesters, and no effect on fetal development or thyroid levels in newborns. The study examined pregnant women and babies from three cities in Chile, where perchlorate levels range from non-detect to 110 ppb, and daily intake of dietary iodide is equivalent with the U.S. -Tellez, et al., 2004.

"The Effect of Perchlorate, Thiocyanate and Nitrate on Thyroid Function in Long-Term Workers Exposed to Perchlorate." The study found that long-term, intermittent high exposure to perchlorate does not induce hypothyroidism or goiter in adults. The study examined 29 healthy adult males in Cedar City, Utah, who had been working in perchlorate production for at least two years, with 50 percent of the subjects having worked in perchlorate production for more than six years. Exposure to perchlorate was through ingestion and inhalation, and median exposure levels were equivalent to 10,000 ppb. -Braverman, et al., 2004.<hr /></blockquote>
Since the 1950s, perchlorate has been used in the U.S. and abroad to treat thyroid disorders. As a result, a wealth of information exists about perchlorate and how it relates to human health. The doses used as a medicine are tens of thousands of times greater than the low levels of perchlorate being detected in drinking water today.

During the past decade, millions of dollars have been spent studying the possible health risks of perchlorate because of its presence at trace levels in some water supplies. Sound scientific and medical research shows that the low levels of perchlorate being detected in drinking water are not dangerous to human health. These studies on adults, newborns and children, together with new research completed in 2004 (Kelsh et al.) provide reason to believe that low levels of perchlorate (even at levels many times higher than the minute amounts being found in some drinking water supplies) also have no measurable effect on pregnant women or fetuses.

Scientific evidence does not link low levels of perchlorate to thyroid problems or thyroid cancer in humans, according to credible, peer-reviewed studies by respected and independent medical researchers.

Since the early 20th century Chilean nitrate fertilizer containing naturally-occurring perchlorate has been widely used in American agriculture. Current amounts of Chilean nitrate fertilizer products being shipped and used in the United States are substantial. According to the Foreign Trade Division, U.S. Census Bureau, the amounts of sodium nitrate imported from Chile into U.S. ports in 2001 was 88,150 metric tons.

I don't think we need to get too worked up about drinking "rocket fuel". /ccboard/images/graemlins/grin.gif /ccboard/images/graemlins/grin.gif /ccboard/images/graemlins/grin.gif

Anyway, the NAS has released their final report, you can read it here:


I don't see anything scary here, they said that an adult would have to take 30mg a day for an extended period to cause adverse health effects.

To put that in perspective, if your water had 20 ppm of perchlorate, you would have to drink 500 gallons of water a day, every day, for several years, before you would have adverse health effects. (From the perchlorate that is, drinking that much water would kill you.)

01-13-2005, 09:14 PM
If you make a mess, then you are responsible for cleaning it up. Right?
This is a 'get out of jail card' for the poluters. I think most people would be disturbed to know that its ok to polute the water supply, as long as no-one can prove its not harmful.


01-13-2005, 09:50 PM
The problem is that there is no science behind your fears.

The first EPA guidelines for perchlorate came out in 1997, which coincides with the first scientific test devised to measure it. There is no way of knowing what the historical natural levels were prior to 1997. The 4ppm value was used only because that is the quantitative limit that the test was designed to measure.

Perchlorates are naturally occuring as well as man-made. They are widely used in products ranging from pyrotechnics and fireworks, blasting agents, matches, lubricating oils, textile dye fixing, nuclear reactors, electronic tubes, tanning and finishing leather, rubber manufacturing, electroplating, aluminum refinishing, automobile air bag inflators, paint and enamel production, fertilizers, and pharmaceuticals. So where do you plan to pin the blame?

And since you can show no adverse effects, how will you assess damages? Since you don't know what the natural levels are in various areas, how will you determine what is safe, and how much cleanup should be done, and by whom?

Who will foot the bill for this? You? The US has enough serious pollution problems to deal with, we don't need imaginary ones to sap our resources.

Fortunately the EPA is smart enough to base their decisions on science and not some panicky environmentalists' scare tactics.