Bush Administration Proposes Lower Standards for Toxic Metal Selenium

Even while the Bush administration publicly courts hunters and fishers, it’s taking quiet steps that those outdoorsfolks likely wouldn’t approve of. Over the objections of many federal scientists, the U.S. EPA is poised to establish a more lax standard for selenium, a toxic metal that builds up in the bodies of fish and is particularly harmful to waterfowl. The current standards were set in the 1980s after hundreds of deformed and dying waterfowl were traced to selenium, which runs off into streams and rivers from mines, power plants, and farms. For years, mining, power, and agricultural interests have lobbied the EPA for looser standards. The power industry alone has spent roughly $10 million on its own research; not surprisingly, for its money it has gotten studies claiming the current standards are too strict. The EPA is basing the proposed new standard in large part on a study that the author himself says was badly misinterpreted, and most biologists at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service say, if anything, the standards should be more strict.