Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Hearing On Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals in Drinking Water

Feb 25: The House Energy & Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, Chaired by Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) held a hearing entitled, Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals in Drinking Water: Risks to Human Health and the Environment. The hearing examined the science and regulation of endocrine disruptors that may be found in sources of drinking water.Witnesses testifying at the hearing included: Jim Jones, Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances, U.S. EPA; Linda Birnbaum, Director, National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences; and representatives from the Natural Resources Defense Council and Applied Pharmacology and Toxicology, Inc.
In an opening statement Chairman Markey said, “Lately, not a day goes by where the public is not reminded of the presence of toxic chemicals in the air we breathe and the water we drink, and the potential harmful effects that these chemicals can have on public health and the environment." Markey cited as an example, bisphenol A [BPA], which is used in many plastic containers and as a lining in canned food, and he said, "is associated with developmental and reproductive disorders in humans. To this end, the FDA recently announced that it is concerned about these health effects. I’ve got a bill to ban its use in food and beverage containers, and hope we can finally start limiting our exposure." He also cited, triclosan is another example of an endocrine disruptor which is used as an antimicrobial in hand soaps; and perchlorate, used as an ingredient in rocket fuel, is "pervasively showing up in drinking water all across the nation."

EPA testified that the implementation of the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP) is part of one of Administrator Jackson’s top priorities ‐‐ "to make significant and long overdue progress in assuring the safety of chemicals in our products, our environment and our bodies. Issuing test orders for the generation of data to better understand potential endocrine effects is an important step in improving our ability to protect the public health and the environment from chemicals." EPA said it is "on track to obtain Tier 1 endocrine screening data on several hundred chemicals within the next several years. Although it has taken a long time to develop and implement the EDSP, we have developed and validated some useful tools and learned lessons that can be applied to other areas."

NRDC offered extensive and detailed testimony and said, "There are serious concerns about contaminants in our nation's drinking water and source waters. Fish have been found in numerous rivers, including the Potomac, with disrupted sexual development -- specifically feminized male fish. When this finding was first noted in England in the 1990'S,1 it was considered possibly a fluke. But what was once a localized, spotty observation is now being recognized as a widespread, pervasive phenomenon. Four months ago, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey reported finding intersex fish in one third of sites surveyed in eight river basins (the Apalachicola, Colorado, Columbia, Mobile, Mississippi, Pee Dee, Rio Grande, and Savannah river basins). . . . The same kind of thing happened with deformed frogs: local observations in the Midwest led to the eventual realization that these amphibian abnormalities are widespread. A recent review by researchers at Yale University concluded that the mystery of these deformities remains unsolved. . ."

NRDC offered a number of specific recommendations for EPA and for Congress. The Congressional recommendations included: - Require EPA to prioritize and screen chemicals in drinking water, including mixtures, for endocrine disrupting effects; - Restore adequate funding for the USGS Toxic Substances Hydrology Program and the USGS National Water Quality Assessment Program (NAWQA), so more data are available on contaminants in source water and drinking water; and - Reform the Toxic Substances Control Act to require testing of chemicals for toxicity, and require EPA action to promptly regulate hazardous chemicals.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) President and CEO Cal Dooley issued a statement on the House subcommittee hearing and said, “As with any potential chemical risks, ACC members have taken these concerns seriously and have worked to make sure that there are well established scientifically robust methods for assessing endocrine activity and adverse effects and that there are well established regulatory processes to act on this scientific information. Since 1996, ACC has played a constructive role in EPA’s development of the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program and our goal has been to see it implemented as quickly as possible and in a manner consistent with the law and the science. The importance of basing regulatory decisions on the best science cannot be overstated. Decisions not based on the best science and on established risk assessment and management procedures can misallocate limited resources and limit the use of safe chemicals, and create potentially unnecessary public health concerns.”

Access the statement from Chairman Markey (click here). Access the hearing website for links to all testimony and a video (click here). Access the ACC statement and link to additional information (click here).