Scientists Question EPA Study on Perchlorate

IRVINE, CA — Several scientists speaking before a recent National Academy of Sciences (NAS) panel on perchlorate raised serious questions about the validity of some key studies used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to draft a proposal for a maximum level for perchlorate in drinking water.

EPA’s current draft proposes a maximum level of one part per billion in drinking water, about the equivalent of a teaspoon in an Olympic-sized pool. One key set of studies in this draft proposal is the so-called “Argus studies” of 1998 and 2001. These animal studies have been the subject of controversy for the past several years. Two in particular, the brain morphometry and behavioral studies, were the subject of criticism at the December 12-13 meeting of the NAS panel.

Harold Schwartz, clinical professor of medicine with the University of California, Irvine, and Douglas Wahlsten, professor emeritus of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Alberta, each provided separate presentations criticizing the Argus studies for flawed design and execution, as well as for questionable results.

Robert Brush, adjunct research professor in the department of Psychology at San Diego State University, and Andrea Elberger, a professor with the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center, each presented the unanimous conclusions of separate review panels organized as a “State of the Science Symposium” by the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Brush’s panel examined the behavioral study and raised several questions about the validity of the results. Elberger’s panel reviewed the morphometry study. She concluded her remarks by stating that these Argus studies were “totally unreliable.”

The Argus studies regarding brain morphometry and behavior attempted to determine whether perchlorate had any neurological effect on rats.

Grounded in sound science and education, the Perchlorate Information Bureau is dedicated to improving the public dialogue on the facts about perchlorate in drinking and irrigation waters, as well as food, and the potential impacts of perchlorate regulation on human health, water supply, water rates and taxpayers.