Energy & Environment

EPA declines to regulate rocket fuel chemical tied to developmental damage

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Thursday that it will not regulate a chemical used in rocket fuel that has been linked to developmental damage. 

The agency said in a statement that the chemical, perchlorate, “does not meet the criteria for regulation as a drinking water contaminant” under the Safe Drinking Water Act. 

The EPA has found that up to 620,000 people might be consuming water that has a perchlorate concentration higher than “levels of concern.”

It said in a draft final action that this number was too small to present a “meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction.”

“Today’s decision is built on science and local success stories and fulfills President Trump’s promise to pare back burdensome ‘one-size-fits-all’ overregulation for the American people,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement. 

“State and local water systems are effectively and efficiently managing levels of perchlorate. Our state partners deserve credit for their leadership on protecting public health in their communities, not unnecessary federal intervention,” he added. 

Agency documents have stated that exposure to perchlorate can cause issues with the thyroid gland, which is critical for growth and development of fetuses, babies and children. 


Critics say Thursday’s move by the EPA defied a court-ordered consent decree requiring the administration regulate the chemical.

“Today’s decision is illegal, unscientific, and unconscionable,” said Erik Olson, senior strategic director for health at the Natural Resources Defense Council, in a statement.

“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. Is this what the Environmental Protection Agency has come to?” Olson added.

The New York Times previously reported that the agency wouldn’t regulate the substance. 

Last year, the EPA proposed setting the maximum contaminant level of perchlorate at 56 parts per billion (ppb), significantly higher than the 15 ppb proposed under the Obama administration.

Some states have also set their own standards for perchlorate, with 6 ppb in California and 2 ppb in Massachusetts.

Updated at 11:20 a.m.

Tags Andrew Wheeler California Chemical substances Donald Trump Drinking water Drinking water quality in the United States Environmental Protection Agency Massachusetts Perchlorate Safe Drinking Water Act Water supply and sanitation in the United States
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