EPA Administrator Jackson Can't Document Claim Linking Autism to Drinking Water

By Penny Starr | February 16, 2011 | 6:00 AM EST

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – After Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson testified on Feb. 2 that regulating drinking water might help prevent children from getting autism, CNSNews.com asked Jackson by e-mail whether she could provide “any data, studies, documents, reports or other sources” to confirm her claim. Her office subsequently stated there were “emerging studies” but provided no evidence.

In an e-mail statement to CNSNews.com on Feb. 11, Jackson said there were “emerging studies” that show a possible link between autism and environmental factors. But repeated requests by e-mail and by telephone to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asking them to produce those studies or other documentation to support her claim were not answered.

The Feb. 11 statement said, “We do not yet know enough about autism to identify any specific environmental contaminants that are responsible. As EPA Administrator, it is my job to make sure that the public's health is protected from environmental toxins in the air we breathe, the water we drink and our land. Science is an always evolving field, and will always guide EPA's actions.”

“Developmental disorders, including autism, hit close to home for many Americans,” the statement said. “We have seen over the decade, the reported prevalence of such developmental disorders rise.”

“While the science is not evolved enough to explain that increase, some emerging studies show a possible association between environmental exposures and autism,” the statement continued. “Though we do not yet know enough about autism to identify any specific environmental contaminants that are responsible, EPA's job is to be on the forefront of protecting American's from such threats.”

As reported earlier by CNSNews.com, on Feb. 2 Jackson told the Senate Committee on Public Works and the Environment that preventing children from being exposed to contaminated water could spare them from having autism.

Jackson made the remark 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.”

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“I think the president’s far-reaching executive order makes clear that there are some things that are hard to price,” Jackson said. “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.”

“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.”

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);”