Bush made right decision on arsenic limits*

Elton Wong

You know, most people don’t realize how hard it is to be a columnist.

To the uninformed eye of the ignorant layman, it may look like we simply spend a half-page of the newspaper spouting off our own opinions and shoving our ideas down the unsuspecting collective throat of a trusting student body.

What these nay-sayers don’t see are the literally tens of minutes we spend every week doing research, formulating our thoughts and preparing our pieces.

I decided I’m tired of being underpaid and under-appreciated, so I’ve recently decided to rectify the situation by accepting huge cash kickbacks from political and lobbying organizations.

Which organizations, you ask? Unethical, you say? Well, my over-curious and over-critical friend, that’s none of your damn business.

I’m not some kind of pushover. Just because I take money from special-interest groups doesn’t mean I’m any less committed to writing the best columns I can.

At any rate, I’m just a writer. It’s not like I’m setting environmental and health policies that affect the lives of millions of Americans.

With that in mind, I’d like to devote this column to doing what I do best: praising the Bush Administration’s pro-arsenic environmental policies.

On Tuesday, the EPA, now led by Bush-appointed Christie Todd Whitman, announced that it would raise the federally-mandated limit concerning arsenic in drinking water.

Arsenic is a deadly toxin and carcinogen, which is produced by many industrial processes.

Clinton, in his last days as president, approved a standard of 10 parts per billion.

The old (and new, I guess) standard for arsenic in drinking water was (is now) 50 parts per billion, which was set in the late 40s, when children were regularly sprayed with DDT as a way to repel mosquitoes.

As an aside, many of those children are now adults with detectable amounts of residual DDT in their bodies.

Everyone thought that the 50 ppb arsenic standard was fine, until a 1999 study by the National Academy of Sciences found that an arsenic standard of 50 ppb “could easily” result in a 1-in-100 risk of cancer.

This study also recommended that the arsenic standard be lowered “as promptly as possible.”

The European Union and the World Health Organization quickly followed this recommendation and instituted the 10 ppb standard. The Clinton Administration did, too, but of course that did no good.

The 50 ppb decision has met criticism.

Chuck Fox, who until January was the EPA’s assistant administrator for water, said “this action will jeopardize the health of millions of Americans, and it compromises literally a decade’s worth of work on behalf of developing a public health standard.”

It’s worth noting that this new arsenic decision benefits no one more than coal producers.

Well, not the actual people who go into the mountains and dig out coal.

These people are too busy struggling with high rates of cancer and black lung to benefit from much of anything.

However, the heads of companies who produce coal (who, incidentally, are huge contributors to the Republican party) are dancing in the streets over Whitman’s decision, because it means that they won’t be subject to strict and expensive regulations that would cut into their profits.

I’d like to applaud the Whitman and the Bush EPA for standing up to the rabble-rousing liberal extremists in the Clinton EPA and the National Institutes of Science, as well as those wine-swilling cheese-heads in the European Union and the black-helicopter-riding World Health Organization.

First of all, a 1-in-100 risk of cancer isn’t as bad as the activists make it sound.

For instance, there are 280 million people living in the United States now, right? One percent of that would be 2.8 million cancer cases under the 50 ppb rule.

That’s not so many in the grand scheme of things.

I mean, that’s like the population of Minneapolis, which isn’t all that big.

Do we really care if everyone in Minneapolis gets cancer? It’s not like they’ll all die.

When you think about, we could all go at any time.

Why, you could just be crossing the street tomorrow and then get hit by a truck.

Additionally, most of the people who will get cancer from arsenic are poor, anyway; otherwise they’d be drinking Evian.

When they have to start paying for chemotherapy, they’ll be way too impoverished to contribute to political campaigns.

Lowering the arsenic standard would cost Bush huge sums from the coal and chemical industries, for little to no return.

Hell, when you think about it, tightening the arsenic standard would be downright irresponsible.

It’s much more reasonable to side with Whitman, especially when she said that there is insufficient scientific evidence to ascertain the risk associated with drinking arsenic.

I mean, I’ve never really trusted those liberally biased “scientists” in the National Academy of Sciences. What do they know, with all their “book-learning” and fancy “degrees”?

It’s much wiser to trust the scientific authority of the coal producers, kind of like with tobacco and cancer. Evolution, too.

Good for you, Christie. Way to stick it to those one-world, spread the wealth, tree-hugging hippies.

In fact, I’d like to propose a toast to our new administration. Everyone raise their bottled water . . .

Elton Wong is a senior in genetics and philosophy from Ames.