WASHINGTON -- Twenty-one senators yesterday asked the Environmental Protection Agency for more information about an unreleased internal paper that reportedly concludes that the gasoline additive MTBE may cause cancer.
MTBE, which was put into gasoline to cut air pollution, has been banned in several states because of complaints that it adds a foul smell and turpentine-like taste to drinking water when it leaks into water supplies.
But the draft EPA paper, described as a preliminary document that has not been peer-reviewed, raises broader health concerns on MTBE than widely assumed, according to opponents of the proposed liability shield.
''This is extremely troubling and certainly merits further investigation and review," said the senators -- 19 Democrats and one Republican (Olympia Snowe of Maine) -- in a letter sent yesterday to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson.
The draft document calls MTBE a likely carcinogen, according to a trade publication, Inside EPA. EPA officials do not dispute that characterization, but EPA spokeswoman Eryn Witcher said the draft paper reflects ''incomplete information" developed early in the MTBE review process and has yet to undergo peer reviews.