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Obama administration to set perchlorate levels in drinking water

August 6, 2009 | 12:55 pm

TapwaterThe Obama administration may be poised to reverse another Bush administration decision on toxic chemicals.

Under President Bush in 2008, the Environment Protection Agency decided not to regulate perchlorate, a chemical used to make rocket fuel that has been found in drinking water and has been linked to thyroid hormone disruption in young children. Now, it looks like the agency is reconsidering that stance.

In California, perchlorate used in manufacturing has seeped into groundwater. High levels of the chemical in drinking water has caused alarm in Rialto and Santa Clarita. The chemical has also turned up in tainted lettuce. In the absence of federal regulations, California moved to set state standards for perchlorate in drinking water in 2006. Massachusetts was the only other state with an enforceable standard on the chemical. 

That same year, the EPA drew a response  from scientists at its the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, who said the agency's recommended standard on perchlorate failed to protect infants and children.

Now, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson has said the organization will take another look at the chemical and accept public comments. “It is critically important to protect sensitive populations, particularly infants and young children, from perchlorate in drinking water,” Jackson said.  “As we re- re-evaluate the science around perchlorate, we will seek public input before making a regulatory determination based on the best science.”

The chemical is found naturally on Earth and is used to make fireworks, flares and rocket propellant. It has also been found on Mars.

-- Amy Littlefield

Photo: Perchlorate is a chemical found in drinking water that has been linked to thyroid hormone disruption. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha/Los Angeles Times