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Perchlorate Information Withheld, Suit Alleges

March 25, 2004|Miguel Bustillo | Times Staff Writer

The Bush administration is illegally withholding information about the ill effects of ammonium perchlorate, a rocket fuel ingredient that has tainted water supplies in at least 29 states, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in L.A. by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The environmental group contends that the administration has broken the law by failing to turn over documents in response to requests for perchlorate-related records under the Freedom of Information Act.

The environmental group requested the records from the White House, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Defense. It sought details of what government officials knew about the scope of perchlorate pollution and the health effects of the contaminant. It also sought to determine whether defense officials had sought to soften EPA health rules governing perchlorate, said an attorney for the environmental group, Aaron Colangelo.

"The issue from our perspective is children's health, and to get to the bottom of it, we filed requests" for information, Colangelo said. "We believe this administration has been working with industry behind closed doors to keep protective standards from being passed."

An EPA official said Wednesday that the agency was "actively working on" the organization's information request.

Perchlorate has been used in fireworks, road flares and other items, in addition to munitions, and is in the booster rockets that propel the space shuttle.

Studies of laboratory rats have shown that tiny doses of perchlorate can affect the thyroid's production of hormones crucial to development in early childhood. However, the level at which it poses a danger to humans is unclear.

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