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'Illegal, Unscientific, and Unconscionable': Despite Risk of Brain Damage to Infants, Trump EPA Won't Regulate Rocket Fuel Additive for Water Supplies

"EPA has abdicated its responsibility to set federal drinking water standards for a chemical long known to be unsafe."

A small boy drinks from a public drinking fountain in the historic Plaza in Santa Fe, New Mexico. (Photo: Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump's EPA on Thursday finalized a rule to roll back regulations of a chemical found in rocket fuel that can cause brain damage in infants.

"Today's decision is illegal, unscientific, and unconscionable," Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) senior strategic director for Health Erik D. Olson said in a statement. 

The decision to deregulate perchlorate in public drinking water was a long time coming and the source of heavy pushback from environmental groups and Democrats. Regulation of the chemical was a carryover from former President Barack Obama's administration. 

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler made the announcement Thursday, saying the move "fulfills President Trump's promise to pare back burdensome 'one-size-fits-all' overregulation for the American people."

But, as the Associated Press noted, the chemical's danger should not be underestimated to the 16 million Americans under threat of having the contaminant in their drinking water.

According to AP:

Perchlorate can damage the development of fetuses and children and cause measurable drops in IQ in newborns, the American Academy of Pediatrics said last August in urging the "strongest possible" federal limits. Studies cited by the doctors' group included one showing that 9 out of 13 breastfeeding infants were ingesting significant levels of the chemical.

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The decision came one day before the deadline for the EPA to issue a regulation on the chemical as instructed in a 2016 consent decree with the NRDC. Olson expressed frustration with Wheeler's move to deregulate rather than increase controls on perchlorate. 

"The Environmental Protection Agency is threatening the health of pregnant moms and young children with toxic chemicals in their drinking water at levels that literally can cause loss of IQ points," said Olson. "Is this what the Environmental Protection Agency has come to?"

The NRDC plans to challenge the order in court, claiming the consent decree did not allow for deregulating the chemical. 

In a statement Thursday, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the ranking member on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said he agreed with the NRDC. 

"EPA has abdicated its responsibility to set federal drinking water standards for a chemical long known to be unsafe, instead leaving it up to states to decide whether or not to protect people from it," said Carper. 

"Even though EPA previously determined that this dangerous chemical needed to be regulated, the agency has now decided to ignore science that it finds inconvenient and reverse its earlier finding," Carper continued. "This is an all too common and disturbing pattern of action for this EPA."

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