Human drinking water study raises controversy.

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Human drinking water study raises controversy.

 

SAN BERNARDINO, CA — Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE: LMT) in

Bethesda, MD, is paying California residents to ingest ammonium

perchlorate, a rocket fuel propellant often found in drinking water

supplies.

Volunteers are being paid $1,000 each to take daily pills containing

perchlorate at concentrations 83 times those allowed in drinking

water by the state Department of Health Services, according to the

Los Angeles Times. The six-month experiment at Loma Linda

Medical Center is intended to determine safe drinking water limits

for perchlorate, which is known to affect thyroid function. Very high

doses are sometimes used to treat thyroid disorders.

The state department has set an action level of 18 parts per billion

(ppb) for perchlorate, and the state is considering a more stringent

standard. A Lockheed Martin plant is considered to be the most

likely source of perchlorate groundwater contamination in San

Bernardino County, where one public well was found to contain 800

ppb of perchlorate.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not yet set a

drinking water standard for perchlorate, but is studying the issue.

Some public water systems will begin testing for perchlorate under

the revised Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Regulation in

2001.

The design of the Loma Linda study has raised ethical eyebrows in

the health and consumer communities. News reports from California

said this is believed to be the first large-scale US study of water

contaminants using human subjects, although a report on a shortterm

study involving nine subjects who ingested perchlorate at

Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston was published in August.

"The idea of paying someone to take a toxic chemical is highly

questionable," said Jean Halloran of Consumers Union in Yonkers,

NY. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should not

accept the results of such research, Halloran said, "without an

extensive public discussion."

The Loma Linda study was approved by Boston University and the

Jerry L. Pettis Memorial VA Medical Center, the Times reported.

"This study escaped the mechanisms that normally filter these

things out," said Dr. Sidney Wolfe, head of Public Citizens Health

Research Group in Washington. "It's a very bad precedent."

The Brigham and Women's study did not find any effect on thyroid

function. However, an epidemiological study published in the August

issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

concluded that even low levels of perchlorate in drinking water may

negatively affect babies' health before birth. Scientists with the

Arizona Department of Health Services' Bureau of Health Statistics

reached this conclusion after comparing newborn screening data for

1,542 infants born in Yuma and Flagstaff between 1994 and 1997.

 

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Edited from Tech-Bank 11/28/00