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Press Release

Statement on Phase-out of Cyanazine: Press Release

November 15, 1999

Bottle-Fed Infants May Exceed 'Safe' Dose Before Age 1

For Immediate Release:

Nov. 15, 1999

Media Contacts:

Bill Walker, EWG, (415) 561-6698

Justin Ruben, Pesticide Watch, (559) 486-0165

SACRAMENTO -- The tap water of more than 1 million Californians, mostly in the Central Valley, is contaminated with a banned pesticide that is one of the most potent carcinogens known, according to an Environmental Working Group (EWG) analysis of state data. Yet current standards for the compound allow exposure to 100 times the "safe" adult dose and almost 300 times the "safe" dose for infants and children.

As reported Nov. 13 by The Sacramento Bee, EWG's computer-assisted analysis of water utility test results found that DBCP contaminates tap water in 38 water systems in nine counties. Fresno, Riverside, Clovis, Lodi and Madera are the largest communities with serious problems (See table, p. 2). EWG's complete report is available online at www.ewg.org.

In all 38 communities, the tap water delivered to homes, schools and businesses contains levels of DBCP well above the levels considered safe by the state for other cancer-causing compounds. In 19 communities, bottle-fed infants fed formula mixed with tap water receive a lifetime's "safe" dose of DBCP by their first birthday. EWG recommends that parents in the contaminated areas should not feed infants formula made with tap water.

DBCP, or dibromochloropropane, is a potent carcinogen and perhaps the most powerful testicular toxin ever made. The pesticide causes genetic mutations and cancer in every species of animal on which it has been tested. According to University of California researchers, a single dose can cause permanent testicular malfunction in test animals.

DBCP has been banned nationwide for 20 years, but is still found in hundreds of Central Valley water supplies. In connection with a lawsuit by families of children who drank DBCP-tainted water at school in Bakersfield, researchers have found a high rate of sterility or abnormally small testicles among the former pupils.

The state is scheduled to announce new limits for the amount of DBCP allowed in tap water next month. EWG recommends that the state cut the amount of DBCP allowed in tap water in half, and also sue for damages from the manufacturers of DBCP, which would be used to clean up or replace contaminanted water supplies.

"There's no known safe level of exposure to DBCP," said Bill Walker, California director of EWG. "It's going to take many millions of dollars to make these communities' water safe again or find new supplies. The state should take immediate action to protect public health and take legal action to recover damages from the manufacturers of DBCP."