The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under Administrator Michael Regan announced Thursday that it will continue to not regulate the presence of perchlorate in drinking water. File Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/UPI | License Photo
April 1 (UPI) -- The Biden administration has announced it is upholding a Trump-era decision to not regulate the drinking water levels of perchlorate, a chemical linked to infant and fetus developmental issues, angering health advocates and environmentalists.
The announcement was made by the Environmental Protection Agency, affirming the previous administration's decision under then-President Donald Trump to deregulate the chemical in 2020.
The regulation of the perchlorate -- which is found in rocket fuel, explosives and fireworks, and is both naturally occurring and manmade -- has been in flux for over a decade.
The Obama administration in February of 2011 announced that perchlorate met the Safe Drinking Water Act's criteria for regulation -- a decision that the following Trump administration rescinded, arguing that the chemical does not occur "with a frequency and at levels of public health concern" to require regulation under the meaning of the SDWA.
Then on the day of his inauguration, President Joe Biden announced a review of a slew of decisions made under the previous White House, including its ruling on perchlorate.
While the various federal agencies have sought to undo moves conducted by Trump officials, the EPA on Thursday said its review concluded that the administration's decision to deregulate perchlorate "is supported by the best available peer reviewed science."
The decision was met with swift backlash from the Natural Resources Defense Council who said millions will now be left unknowingly exposed to the chemical in their tap water.
"The EPA's failure to protect drinking water from widespread perchlorate contamination is unscientific, unlawful and unconscionable," Erik Olson, senior strategic director for health at the NRDC, said in a statement. "the Trump EPA gave perchlorate a pass; it was a bad decision then and a bad decision now."
According to a 2005 study titled "Health Implications of Perchlorate Ingestion," perchlorate at high doses can affected thyroid hormone production, which is critical for normal growth and development of the central nervous system of fetuses and infants.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has also said pregnant women, fetuses and newborns have the greatest potential for risk of adverse health effects due to exposure to perchlorate.
"By refusing to establish a standard of water testing requirements, the EPA decision will also keep members of the public in the dark, without even basic information about whether they are being exposed to perchlorate," said Olson.
Though it said it will not regulate the chemical, Biden's EPA announced a slew of decisions to prevent further drinking water contamination, including continuing ongoing cleanup activities at perchlorate contaminated sites, developing standards for the open burning and detonation of waste explosives and bulk propellants, strengthening labeling requirements for hypochlorite solutions and providing resources and recommendations for water systems to address perchlorate contamination.