At a Senate hearing this week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was scolded for information released to the public about <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/defective_drugs">pharmaceuticals being present in much of the nationâ€™s drinking water.Â The information came from an Associated Press investigative series, which ultimately prompted the Senate hearing.
Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works chair, Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat-California, scolded the EPAâ€™s Benjamin H. Grumbles, assistant administrator for water, because the agency does not require drug testing of water and resultant test result disclosure.Â â€œWhen a story like this breaks, why is it necessary for Senator (Frank) Lautenberg to call a hearing on this?Â Why arenâ€™t you working on this night and day?â€ Boxer asked.Â â€œThe Associated Press did your work and theyâ€™re telling us whatâ€™s in the water.â€ Â
After a five-month-long inquiry by the AP, it found many communities do not test for drugs in drinking water and those that do often fail to tell customers they have found medications, including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers, and sex hormones.Â Medications were found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans in 24 major metropolitan areas and scientists are concerned about long-term ramifications to wildlife and human health.Â Also, water providers are not required to test for pharmaceuticals and the EPAâ€™s budget for the testing of endocrine disruptors in Americaâ€™s waterways was cut by 35 percent.
â€œWeâ€™re very concerned.Â It does send a big red flag.Â Weâ€™re taking this very seriously,â€ Grumbles testified, adding that the EPA was â€œdrastically expanding the scopeâ€ of its monitoring of such issues.Â â€œYour concern is not comforting.Â I can tell you that,â€ said Lautenberg, Democrat-New Jersey, who chairs the Subcommittee on Transportation Safety, Infrastructure Security, and Water Quality. â€œAction is what we are trying to get.â€
Boxer advised Grumbles to immediately release those records that the AP recently requested in a Freedom of Information Act request from a White House task force.Â The task force is allegedly creating a federal plan to research pharmaceuticals in the environment.Â But, just this week, the AP reported that the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy group did not supply a national research strategy by its December deadline.Â Approximately 70 pages of documents were released; however, a White House lawyer told the AP that another â€œ10 inches worthâ€ were not released.Â â€œThe White House is keeping its task force secret,â€ said Boxer, who asked the Bush administration to â€œimmediately release all of the records.â€
After the hearing, Lautenberg said the EPA response was inadequate. â€œTo me, it represents a sleight of hand that we are familiar with here.â€
In separate testimony, Robert M. Hirsch, the USGSâ€™s associate director for water said, â€œWhether or not there are adverse human health effects from cumulative lifetime exposures to the low concentrations of complex mixtures of pharmaceuticals found in the environment remains a research priority, particularly the effects on sensitive subpopulations such as children, women of child-bearing years, the elderly and people with suppressed immune systems.â€