EPA Administrator Claims Regulating Drinking Water Supply Prevents Kids from Getting Autism

February 3, 2011 - 5:05 AM

Lisa Jackson

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson said at a Senate hearing on Wednesday that Americans have a 'right' to know if their drinking water is safe. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) – Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson told a Senate panel that preventing children from being exposed to contaminated water could spare them from autism.

Jackson made the remark on Wednesday at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works in response to questioning by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who asked if a recent executive order by President Barack Obama about regulations and the regulatory process means that the EPA can put any rules in place if “the benefits outweigh the costs.”

“I think the president’s far-reaching executive order makes clear that there are some things that are hard to price,” Jackson said at the hearing on U.S. drinking water and new regulations the EPA may put in place on contaminants.

“Our science may be good, but I don’t know how you price the ability to try to forestall a child who may not get autism if they’re not exposed to contaminated water,” Jackson said.

“And I think language in that order is about those things where we can be protective for a reasonable amount of money,” Jackson said, “to make sure our children and future generations are not guinea pigs.”

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, autism is a disease that causes abnormal biology and chemistry in the brain and that “the exact causes of these abnormalities remain unknown.”

Mike Johanns

Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) is a new member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works but he expressed his reservations at the hearing about the need for more regulations of the U.S. water supply. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

Obama’s Jan. 18 executive order said, in part, that each federal agency shall “propose or adopt a regulation only upon a reasoned determination that its benefits justify its costs (recognizing that some benefits and costs are difficult to quantify);”

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the committee, said at the hearing that aside from its mission to “protect human health and the environment,” the EPA “also is charged with making the final decision on whether to develop safeguards for new threats to drinking water quality such as chromium 6 and perchlorate,” two toxins that at high levels can could cause health problems.

But some Republicans on the committee were skeptical of the need for more regulations, including newcomer to the committee Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), who asked the second witness on the first panel, Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences and National Toxicology Program, about whether the animals studies done on chromium 6 reflect what is happening in the U.S. water supply.

“The levels to which the animals were exposed in drinking water have been seen in human populations, not in this country, for example, but in China where levels of the same concentration have been used,” Birnbaum said.

“Have you found any drinking water, anywhere in the United States, that has hit those levels?” Johanns asked

John Barrasso

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said at the hearing that the regulations being issued by the EPA are 'job crushing.' (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

“I have not seen that in drinking water, but I’m not an expert in all the drinking waters that have been measured, and as Administration Jackson has been saying, they have been doing a major study now to try and understand the extent of contamination of drinking water by chromium 6,” Birnbaum said.

Barrasso, who is an orthopedic surgeon, said reigning in EPA’s regulatory power is important to the physical and fiscal health of the country.

“There have been an onslaught of job-crushing regulations emerging from the Environmental Protection Agency over the last two years,” Barrasso said in his opening remarks at the hearing. “Unemployment in this country is 9.4 percent. Regulations coming out of the EPA are devastating to the American economy.”

Jackson said at the hearing that Americans have “a right to know and to be assured that their drinking water is safe.”

“Clean and safe water is the foundation of healthy communities, healthy families, and healthy economies,” Jackson said.