Oregon Health Officials' Rocket Science

In 2004, Oregon health officials began investigating whether perchlorate, a rocket fuel chemical present in some of the state's water wells, "might be creeping into the breadbasket region's produce and dairy milk." Their conclusion, based on "limited food sampling," is that "perchlorate doesn't pose a health danger to area residents." But records obtained by The Oregonian reveal that the Northwest Food Processors Association "urged top state health administrators to kill the food study," claiming it might "put the agriculture and food processing industry in the region at risk of severe and unwarranted economic loss." Agricultural groups also raised concerns. State officials "acknowledged that [such] pressure ... changed their process, but they said they did not compromise on results." Yet, to reach their "safe" conclusion, state officials discarded early test results showing high levels of contamination. In an internal email, the head of the state testing project admitted, "My scientific conscience is saying that conclusions cannot be drawn about the data ... since two labs have conflicting results."