House Votes to Reinstate Clinton-Issued Arsenic Standard
The House voted 218-189 on Friday to approve an appropriations bill amendment that would reinstate a Clinton-issued rule that sets "tougher" standards for arsenic in drinking water, the Washington Post reports. President Bush in March shelved" the Clinton regulation that would have lowered the standard for arsenic levels in drinking water from 50 parts per billion to 10 parts per billion. EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman had said that the Clinton rule was "hastily crafted without adequate scientific study," and she called for further examination (Pianin/Eilperin, Washington Post, 7/28). At the time, Whitman suggested that the EPA might set a standard of 20 parts per billion. Since 1942, the standard has been 50 parts per billion, but in 1999, the National Academy of Sciences determined that the standard was "too high" and should be lowered "as promptly as possible." Occurring naturally in water supplies, arsenic can cause lung, bladder and skin cancer and has been linked to kidney and liver cancer (Koszczuk, Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/28).
House Republicans "accused" Democrats of "trying to score political points" by approving the amendment, but Democrats said the amendment was "not about politics, but about protecting Americans" (Shogren, Los Angeles Times, 7/28). House Minority Whip David Bonior (D-Mich.), the amendment's author, said that the Bush administration "is putting Americans at risk for cancer and other health problems" by not lowering the standard. But Republicans said the lowered standard "ignores the financial costs to small communities" Washington Post, 7/28). The Senate now must pass the amendment, and prospects for approval appear "good," the Inquirer reports. However, the White House could "pressure" lawmakers to remove the amendment from the spending bill during final negotiations (Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/28). Should the amendment stand, the Bush administration would have to choose between implementing the lowered standard issued by Clinton or tightening the standard even more (Jehl, New York Times, 7/28).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.