Following four years of study, senior EPA scientists came to an alarming conclusion: The solvent, trichloroethylene, or TCE, was as much as 40 times more likely to cause cancer than the EPA had previously believed.Great to see that the Pentagon protects us with bombs (paid for, handsomely, by us), but then works overtime to (slowly) kill us anyway. It helps when you have an administration that is in your back pocket and doesn't care about the public's health.
By 2003, after a prolonged challenge orchestrated by the Pentagon, the EPA lost control of the issue and its TCE assessment was cast aside. As a result, any conclusion about whether millions of Americans were being contaminated by TCE was delayed indefinitely.
What happened with TCE is a stark illustration of a power shift that has badly damaged the EPA's ability to carry out one of its essential missions: assessing the health risks of toxic chemicals.
If the EPA's 2001 draft risk assessment was correct, then possibly thousands of the nation's birth defects and cancers every year are due in part to TCE exposure, according to several academic experts.
"It is a World Trade Center in slow motion," said Boston University epidemiologist David Ozonoff, a TCE expert. "You would never notice it."
David Ozonoff makes an excellent point. Kill thousands of people suddenly, in one fell swoop, and it certainly gets noticed. But slowly kill off a portion of the population and it never gets the attention and public outrage it deserves. Just look at global warming: while over time it will be a disaster for the entire planet, it's not occurring at a fast enough pace to cause any sudden and fatal effects, and thus it's a big yawn.