Industry Study Used by Feds Hid Evidence of Rocket Fuel's Effects
OAKLAND, Calif., June 3 — A major investigation by The Press-Enterprise of Riverside, Calif., reveals that an industry-funded study relied on by federal scientists to recommend a safe dose for perchlorate erroneously reported that healthy adults were not affected by low doses.
The newspaper reported today that previously unpublished data from the so-called Greer study — funded by Lockheed Martin Corp., Kerr-McGee Co., and Aerojet, all companies that have made or used perchlorate — show that very low doses of the rocket fuel chemical could have harmed thyroid function in some of the test subjects.
"Industry consultants published their 'no-effect' findings in a respected scientific journal but did not include details several scientists said were relevant," wrote reporter David Danielski. "The unpublished data, obtained by The Press-Enterprise, show that perchlorate could have inhibited thyroid function in at least two people recruited for the study."
In addition, the researchers mathematically summarized much of the data in ways that made it impossible to see potential effects, according to a Massachusetts health official: "Something is going on there that gives us pause."
Despite these flaws, the Greer study of 37 adults was relied on by the National Academy of Sciences panel that this spring recommended a reference dose for perchlorate in drinking water that the U.S. EPA will use in setting national drinking water standards. In a letter to the EPA and an article in a scientific journal, state scientists in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Maine say using the NAS reference dose could produce safety standards well above the 1 part per billion adopted by Massachusetts and the 6 ppb proposed by California.
The Environmental Working Group's extensive investigations on perchlorate have repeatedly questioned the value of the Greer study, which inappropriately focuses on the chemical's effects on healthy adults, rather than fetuses, infants and children, who are most at risk from the chemical's potential to disrupt the thyroid. Studies by EWG, federal regulators and academic researchers have found the chemical in human milk, cow's milk and lettuce in concentrations exceeding the safety standards established or proposed by Massachusetts and California.
"For years, perchlorate polluters and the Pentagon have used the industry-funded Greer study to divert attention from the real issue of the chemical's effects on the unborn and newborns," said Bill Walker, West Coast vice president for the EWG. "Now that it's been discredited, regulators should discard it and set safety standards that don't leave more susceptible populations at risk."
• Press-Enterprise Story (registration required)