For Immediate Release
EWG Public Affairs, (202) 667-6982
EPA Employed Suspect Chemical Industry Lab to Declare Perchlorate Safe
Same Lab Found Formaldehyde to be 2,500 to 10,000 Times Less Dangerous Than Previous EPA Estimate
WASHINGTON - As
the clock runs out on the Bush administration, officials at EPA handed
industry another victory last month: it relied on a chemical
industry-funded consulting firm to justify its decision not to set
safety standards for the toxic rocket fuel component perchlorate in
drinking water - a move that would have cost defense and aerospace
contractors hundreds of millions of dollars in cleanup costs.
Instead of using real-world data, EPA officials contracted the
perchlorate assessment out to the Chemical Industry Institute of
The consulting firm devised a computer model for the assessment that
suggested that perchlorate-contaminated water and food presented
relatively minor risks to humans. EPA officials used the CIIT data as a basis for refusing to crack down on water pollution caused by perchlorate.
A CDC national survey found perchlorate in the urine of every person
tested and found that children between 6 and 11 had perchlorate levels
1.6 times higher than adults. Even more alarming, CDC researchers found
that exposure to perchlorate at levels that are considered safe by EPA
resulted in significant changes in thyroid hormone levels in the one
third of U.S. women tested whose iodine levels are on the low side. These
findings of high levels of human exposure have aroused great concern
because tests show that the chemical disrupts production of thyroid
hormones at these levels, and inadequate levels of thyroid hormones
interfere with normal brain development and growth in infants and
"It's simply mind-boggling that the EPA would base its actions on any
advice from the chemical industry, which has millions of dollars at
stake in EPA's position on perchlorate," said EWG senior scientist
Anila Jacob, a medical doctor. "Worse yet, this particular industry consultant is notorious for cooking its results to please the industry. Its computer model is voodoo science, plain and simple."
"If President Bush moves forward with this giveaway to industry, we
will ask the incoming Obama administration to reverse course
immediately and implement stringent safety standards to protect future
generations from exposure to this toxin," added Jacob.
CIIT is no stranger to controversy. Its 2004 risk
assessment for formaldehyde claimed the chemical was 2,500 to 10,000
times less dangerous than EPA had previously asserted. Since 1981, the
U.S. federal government has listed formaldehyde as a "probable human carcinogen."
(Formaldehyde-treated plywood and other components were found to have
sickened Hurricane Katrina survivors living in trailers provided by the
Federal Emergency Management Agency.)
The U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia overturned EPA's formaldehyde loophole in 2007. Even
so, EPA has continued to use CIIT assessments instead of making its own
calculations or turning to risk assessment experts independent of the
In a September 18 report, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) <http://www.gao.gov/products/
researchers, GAO said, did not take into account 2003 and 2004 studies
by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute for
Occupational Safety and Health that found a "relationship between
formaldehyde and certain cancers, including leukemia."
EPA issued its preliminary decision not to regulate perchlorate on Oct.
10. At that time, the agency set a deadline of 30 days, to Nov. 10 for
public comments. EWG and other environmental groups pressed for a
60-day extension, to Jan. 9, 2009, to allow more time for discussion.
Yesterday [Nov. 10], EPA granted an 18-day extension, to Nov. 28. EWG
responded by renewing its request for an extension to Jan. 9.
The letter from EWG to the EPA is attached to this release.