Longtime residents of Southern Nevada will recall that two manufacturers in Henderson once made ammonium perchlorate, a rocket fuel booster much in demand as this country stockpiled missiles during the Cold War. In the 1990s it was discovered that perchlorate had run off into Lake Mead from the Las Vegas Wash, prompting a multiagency cleanup that continues to this day.
Aggressive action is needed because perchlorate in drinking water can lead to thyroid problems in pregnant women, infants and young children. Youngsters who have thyroid problems at an early age are likely to develop behavioral issues later in life as their abilities to function often become impaired.
The dangers perchlorate poses merit stringent regulations with respect to the amounts allowed in water. But The Washington Post reported Monday that the Environmental Protection Agency is under pressure from the White House and the Pentagon to refuse to implement a regulation its own scientists believe is necessary to protect the public.
The White House Office of Management and Budget made matters worse by heavily editing the recommendations of the scientists, who believe as many as 16.6 million Americans are exposed to unsafe levels of the contaminant. The Bush administration clearly isn't looking out for the best interests of women and children in this matter.
Refusal to set a standard is unfathomable, given that perchlorate has contaminated 153 public water systems across the country, the Government Accountability Office reported in 2005.
Most perchlorate contamination is caused by improper disposal of the fuel booster. But the defense industry doesn't want to pay for cleanup of contaminated sites on its own and its friends in the White House and the Pentagon don't appear to be in any rush to reduce perchlorate hazards either.
Until President Bush leaves office in January, we're stuck with an administration that has done more to place the environment in peril than any of his predecessors in memory.