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EPA to Eliminate Regulation of Neurotoxin in Drinking Water

Nothing is more plentiful in the world, nor more vital for our existence than water. Water is essential for all functions within the body, but especially for transferring nutrients and eliminating wastes. When drinking water is contaminated, the body is especially vulnerable to accumulated toxins, so it makes sense to have the cleanest drinking water obtainable for optimum health. In my opinion, the decision by the EPA and the Bush Administration to exempt the ubiquitous neurotoxin, perchlorate, from federal regulation and oversight is a step in the wrong direction. Just like earlier decisions to fluoridate public drinking water, putting a known toxin IN the water, this decision just stinks. For those of you who are not familiar with perchlorate or its associated health effects, it is worth your time to check out the information at ewg.org.

Perchlorate is a common additive in rocket fuel, which has known neurotoxic effects on humans.

Perchlorate is a common additive in rocket fuel, which has known neurotoxic effects on humans.

Feds Set to Eliminate Water Regulations for Neurotoxin

Wired, Brandon Keim
Published December 3, 2008

Among the Bush administration’s final environmental legacies will be a decision to exempt perchlorate, a known neurotoxin found at unsafe levels in the drinking water of millions of Americans, from federal regulation.

The ruling, proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency in October, was supposed to be formalized on Monday. That deadline passed, but the agency expects to announce its decision by the year’s end, before president-elect Barack Obama takes office. It could take years to reverse.

Critics accuse the EPA of ignoring expert advice and basing their decision on an abstract model of perchlorate exposure, rather than existing human data.

“We know that breast milk is widely contaminated with perchlorate, and we know that young children are especially vulnerable. We have really good human data. So why are they putting a model front-and-center?” said Anila Jacobs at the nonprofit Environmental Working Group. “And they used a model that hasn’t yet gone through the peer-review process.”

The ruling is one of dozens planned for the final days of the Bush administration. Others include a relaxing of air pollution standards for aging power plants, and a reduction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s traditional role in evaluating the impact of federal projects on endangered species.

These have received more attention than the status of perchlorate, a chemical found mostly in jet rocket fuel and detected in 35 states and 153 water public water systems. It is known to lower thyroid hormone levels in women; it poses a particular threat to pregnant women and breast-feeding children, whose long-term neurological development can be stunted by youthful hormone imbalances.

As many as 40 million Americans may now be exposed to unsafe levels of perchlorate, and the EPA’s own analysis puts the number at 16 million. The most comprehensive human exposure study, which measured unexpectedly high perchlorate levels and correlated them with thyroid hormone drops, was concluded by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2007.

Environmental health advocates saw the study as supporting tightened restrictions on perchlorate levels in drinking water — something the EPA had been loathe to do under the Bush administration. The study was not considered in the anticipated ruling, which could effectively end federal monitoring of perchlorate in drinking water.

“If you used the human studies from the CDC, then you would be forced to regulate it, because we know there are health effects at current levels of exposure,” said Jacobs.

Benjamin Blount, co-author of the CDC’s study, would not comment on the EPA’s decision, but said that infants — who consume, proportional to their body weight, about six times more water than adults — “are thought to have a higher dose than at any other life stage.”

The EPA declined to comment on why they used a model rather than the CDC’s data in deciding that regulating perchlorate would not provide “a meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction for persons served by public water systems.”

In a November letter to EPA administrator Stephen Johnson, the EPA’s own Science Advisory Board questioned the model. “Its soundness will not be publicly vetted,” they wrote. Only one of two peer reviews invited by the agency has been received, and that was announced only today on the EPA’s website.

“The Science Advisory Board believes that more time is needed for the decision process and for scientific input,” said Joan Rose, a Michigan State University water researcher and chair of the Board’s Drinking Water Committee.

Even Michael Dourson, a researcher at the nonprofit Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment project who accepts the EPA’s model, doesn’t understand why the EPA favored it over human studies.

“The data is on pregnant women and babies, and these studies are quite powerful,” he said. “If they could spend more time to make their decision, I’d recommend looking at it.”

According to EPA spokeswoman Enesta Jones, the agency expects to announce a decision “by the end of the year.” There is little reason to think the ruling will change from its current form.

“This administration has been adamant about not regulating perchlorate,” said Mae Wu, an attorney at the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council.

If the rulings go through, Congress may still take action. California congresswomen Barbara Boxer and Hilda Solis, both Democrats, have each drafted legislation that would force the EPA to regulate perchlorate, though it could take years to go into effect.

States still have the option of regulating perchlorate on their own — but this is not easy, said Charles DeSaillan, New Mexico’s assistant attorney general for natural resources.

“We have fairly limited resources. Historically we’ve relied on the federal drinking water standards, and adopted those,” he said. “In order for us to adopt our own, we’d have to do all the science, all of the research, hire the experts, and go through a regulatory process which would be opposed by the Department of Defense and Department of Energy.”

New Mexico is home to several prominent military testing facilities, and has the highest average perchlorate exposures in the country.

“It’d be long and difficult. Eventually we may do it. But it’s easier for us to rely on the EPA. This is their job. And in the case of perchlorate, they don’t seem to be doing it,” said DeSaillan.

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Chemical Contaminants: Bottled Water vs. Tap Water

Do you like to drink bottled water? Do you perceive bottled water to be cleaner or safer than ordinary tap water?

Marketing like this gives the consumer the perception of freshness and purity.

Marketing like this gives the consumer the perception of freshness and purity.

The bottled water industry has exploded in recent years, becoming the second largest beverage commodity behind soft drinks. The industry’s boom to a $12 billion/year business has been fueled by the fancy advertisements and marketing gimmicks of some of the largest (and richest!) food and beverage corporations in the world, like Pepsi and Coca-Cola. For example, marketers have learned that packaging water in a clear container gives the water a fresher, cleaner appearance, while deceptive logos like Aquafina’s white mountains give the added perception of purity. But is bottled water really fresher and cleaner than tap water? Is the exorbitant price tag of bottled water vs. tap water really worth it? To the millions of Americans who drink bottled water, whether in large, gallon jugs or smaller, individual sport bottles, bottle water is certainly believed to be better. But how much of this is hype and clever marketing, and how much of it is based upon fact? And what happens to all of the millions of plastic containers that go directly into the trash when emptied?

Bottled Water vs. Tap Water

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of websites out there regarding the purity of bottled water vs. tap water. The overwhelming results from various studies are astonishing. Scientists and researchers at the Environmental Working Group have released their findings of samplings and testings performed on ten major bottled water brands. They found that every one of them tested positive for chemical contaminants – 38 total chemicals from the lot, for an average of 8 chemicals per sample. Water samples from Sam’s Choice and Acadia brands actually had chemical contaminants higher than the legal thresholds permissible in public drinking (tap) water. In addition, Sam’s Choice and Giant’s store brands both “bore the chemical signature of standard municipal water treatment — a cocktail of chlorine disinfection byproducts, and for Giant water, even fluoride.” These disinfection products, known as trihalomethanes, have been linked to cancer and reproductive disorders, but this is only the tip of the iceberg.

The samples revealed other common tap water contaminants, including “caffeine and pharmaceuticals ([such as] Tylenol); heavy metals and minerals including arsenic and radioactive isotopes; fertilizer residue (nitrate and ammonia); and a broad range of other, tentatively identified industrial chemicals used as solvents, plasticizers, viscosity decreasing agents, and propellants”. Many of these chemicals are known to cause a variety of health problems in humans and pose a greater risk to the environment.

So what does this all mean?

Unlike local municipal water supplies that are regulated under federal and state laws, companies that produce bottled water do not have to disclose the results of contaminant testings on their water. The bottled water industry is largely unregulated, so consumer confidence in the product rests almost solely upon perception generated from marketing and brand name recognition. In short, if you drink bottled water, you do not know what you are getting.

Environmental Impact

Plastic floating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Plastic floating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a growing, floating body of trash (80% of which is plastic) that has accumulated off the coast of the United States.

The trash accumulates in the North Pacific Gyre an area about ten million square miles in size. There are actually two “garbage patches”: one off the coast of Japan, and another between the West Coast and Hawaii. The patch near Hawaii is roughly the size of Texas.

Click above picture for animation.

Click above picture for animation.

This swirling, churning vortex of vinyl and plastic is growing every day and has detrimental effects on sea wildlife, coastlines and much more. Need I mention that plastics are made from largely non-biodegradable chemicals that leech harmful toxins into the environment?!

Do yourself a favor. Do the environment a favor. Screw the water companies that charge an arm and a leg for bottled water that is just processed tap water at a premium. Invest in a water filtration unit like the Berkey Water filter today.

Do I sound like a commercial? Good! We use a Berkey and I have to tell you: it works, and it is easy, fast and far less expensive than buying bottled water! This way we don’t have to drink nasty tap water, either, and we can remove the fluoride that many municipal water companies add to their water even though that practice has been banned in other areas of the world.

The Berkey Light (C) filtration unit

The Berkey Light © filtration unit

Do you buy bottled water in large gallon jugs? The Berkey Light, at $209, will pay for itself in less than a year! It filters up to 4 gallons per hour and the filters last for 4,000 gallons or one year, whichever comes first – and only cost $99 per pair. If you don’t like plastic, they have a stainless unit available for not much more. (For added fluoride and arsenic removal, you can get the $49 add on filters, which slows the filtration by about 15%; these filters last 6 months).

That means that you can enjoy 11 gallons of purified water per day for an entire year, for less than $100 (cost of filters alone)!! At supermarket rates of $.89 per gallon for water, using only two gallons a day, the cost is $650!! That’s a savings of over $500 per year, for nearly 3 times the amount of purified water!

The Berkey Water filter systems filter out: chlorine (taste & odor), color impurities, pathenogenic bacteria, cysts and parasites, heavy metals, volatile organic compounds (benzene, MTBE, xylene, etc.), nitrates & nitrites, foul tastes & odors (rust & sulfur), trihalomethanes and MUCH more. The filters are so powerful that you can actually take untreated water from lakes and streams and pour it directly into the system! In fact, during our vacation to the Colorado wilderness this summer, we took our Berkey and filtered whatever water we could procure – and it was delicious. Moreover, we didn’t have to worry about bacteria or parasites like Giardia.

We use filtered water for everything now – the animals, the plants, for cooking, for ironing … When you consider that tap water today has added fluoride, excessive chlorine, prescription drugs and much more, this is the healthiest choice!

For those interested in learning more about the advantages of owning a Berkey filtration unit, here’s the informational brochure for the Berkey Light (*.PDF format).

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2008 in Food, Health & Wellness, Informational

 

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