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Senate Committee Approves Water Quality Bills

On July 31, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved, by voice vote, three bills to improve the quality of water and protect the health of pregnant women, infants, and children: the Protecting Pregnant Women and Children from Perchlorate Act (S. 150), the Perchlorate Monitoring and Right-to-Know Act (S. 24), and the TCE [Toxic Chemical Exposure] Reduction Act (S. 1911).

Perchlorate is the primary ingredient in solid rocket propellant and is found in fireworks and road flares. The findings in S. 24 indicated that “perchlorate can harm human health, especially in pregnant women and children, by interfering with uptake of iodide by the thyroid gland, which is necessary to produce important hormones that help control human health and development…[and] impairment of thyroid function in expectant mothers or infants may result in effects, including delayed development and decreased learning capability.” The bill’s findings also indicate that in October 2006, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers “published the largest, most comprehensive study to date on the effects of low levels of perchlorate exposure in women, finding that significant changes existed in thyroid hormones in women with low iodine levels who were exposed to perchlorate; even low-level perchlorate exposure may affect the production of hormones by the thyroid in iodine-deficient women, and in the United States, about 36 percent of women have iodine levels equivalent to or below the levels of the women in the study.”

Protecting Pregnant Women and Children from Perchlorate Act

Sponsored by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), S. 150 would amend the Safe Drinking Water Act (P.L. 93-523) to require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to publish within 90 days of enactment a health advisory for perchlorate in drinking water that protects the health of pregnant women, fetuses, newborns, and children, taking into consideration body weight and exposure patterns and all routes of exposure to perchlorate. The bill also would require the EPA to establish promptly a similar national primary drinking water regulation for perchlorate.

Perchlorate Monitoring and Right-to-Know Act

Also sponsored by Sen. Boxer, S. 24, in addition to requiring an EPA health advisory for perchlorate protecting pregnant women, fetuses, newborns, and children, would require the EPA to propose and issue a final regulation requiring each public water system serving more than 10,000 people or fewer to monitor the drinking water for perchlorate. The regulation would remain in effect until a national drinking water regulation was established.

During consideration of the bill, the committee rejected, by voice vote:

  • an amendment by Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) to require the EPA, by December 31, 2008, to make a regulatory determination whether to propose a national drinking water regulation for perchlorate; and
  • an amendment by Sen. Inhofe to strike the bill’s findings and purposes section.TCE Reduction Act

    Sponsored by Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), S. 1911 would amend the Safe Drinking Water Act to require the EPA to establish within 180 days of enactment a health advisory for trichloroethylene in drinking water that fully protects vulnerable populations, including pregnant women, infants, and children, taking into consideration body weight, exposure patterns, and all routes of exposure to trichloroethylene; and an integrated risk information system reference for concentrations of trichloroethylene that is protective of such populations. The bill also would require the EPA to establish a national drinking water regulation for trichloroethylene that fully protects vulnerable populations and to issue consumer confidence reports relating to TCE in drinking water.

    Trichloroethylene is a metal degreaser. The bill’s findings indicate that in utero exposure to trichloroethylene can cause birth defects and childhood diseases.

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