EPA's standard for arsenic in drinking water is too low and may expose many people to unacceptable risk of cancer, according to the National Academy of Scientists (NAS).
A report by the NAS acknowledged uncertainties about whether arsenic exposure triggers cancer, but concluded current EPA regulation "does not sufficiently protect public health."
EPA's current maximum allowable arsenic content is 50 micrograms per liter of drinking water. NAS said this should be lowered "as promptly as possible."
EPA officials say they have been concerned about arsenic levels in water for some time and said a new arsenic standard for drinking water would be proposed by next January. A final standard is likely in 2000.
"We agree with the conclusions of the report that we need to strengthen our drinking water standards to protect public health and the environment," said Charles Fox, assistant EPA administrator for water issues.