How much perchlorate is too much?

Is the National Academy of Sciences’ recommendation that
perchlorate not exceed 23 parts per billion in food and water good
or bad news? It depends on how you look at it.
Is the National Academy of Sciences’ recommendation that perchlorate not exceed 23 parts per billion in food and water good or bad news? It depends on how you look at it.

When you consider that the NAS committee that issued the recommendation was convened by the defense department, which has advocated a 200 ppb standard for perchlorate in drinking water, 23 ppb looks pretty good.

When you consider that the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s current guideline is 1 ppb, the NAS standard is worrisome.

What it really all comes down to is trust. Can we trust the science that the NAS committee reviewed, and can we trust their interpretation and analysis?

Given that the NAS reviewed five small studies, all with serious limitations, we don’t think this latest “standard” in the perchlorate wars should be the be all and end all. Further, the committee was tainted by the whiff of scandal – three original committee members left the panel due to conflicts of interest, and the National Resources Defense Council is suing for the release of documents it alleges will show the Bush Administration had undue influence over the contents of the report. It simply doesn’t add up to trust.

What South Valley residents need – and the nation deserves – is an unbiased, comprehensive study of the effects of perchlorate at various levels. The study must be untainted by either the defense industry, which wants a high perchlorate standard to reduce its cleanup liability, or by environmental activists, who advocate for low levels.

We are not alone in our perchlorate dilemma. Perchlorate pollutes aquifers across the nation. It has entered our food supply through irrigation. As a nation, we need information. We need to know at what level perchlorate is harmless in our aquifers so that we can restore polluted ground water to safe levels.

We renew our call for a federally funded, long-term, independent study that will give us the trustworthy data and reliable analysis on perchlorate that this nation so desperately needs. That study should be conducted over a long span, but results should be released as significant conclusions are reached.

Without it, safe perchlorate levels are just educated guesses, and that’s not good enough.

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