By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently took an important step towards ensuring that drinking water in communities across the United States is free from dangerous chemical residues. Lisa Jackson, Administrator at the EPA, told a United States Senate Committee that her agency is mandating a limit on perchlorate, a chemical found in rocket fuel and, unfortunately, also in the drinking water of between 5 and 17 million people. The effects of ingesting perchlorate include limiting the thyroid’s ability to absorb iodine, an important mineral for good health.
I am a big fan of drinking tap water and therefore applaud the EPA’s efforts. Tap water has many benefits, including the fact that it’s free! But consuming tap water is also much better for the environment. America’s consumption of bottled water, and the concomitant cost of production and disposal, costs billions of dollars every year. Tap water also has an important health benefit since it is often fluoridated, thus preventing tooth decay. Bottled water doesn’t have fluoride and many dentists say the increase in consumption of bottled water is reflected in patients with higher levels of tooth decay. Fluoridated water provides a critical public health benefit for children especially, and it can save them from a lifetime of dental disease.
One of the great health breakthroughs in the United States was the creation of safe drinking water right from the tap. But keeping that water safe is important; which is why the EPA’s action to curb perchlorate, which will also include a separate effort to set lower limits for 16 other chemicals in drinking water, is of critical importance.