Perchlorate in Water
REPORT ON WIDESPREAD ROCKET FUEL POLLUTION IN NATION'S FOOD AND WATER
A new analysis of data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control indicates that a toxic chemical in rocket fuel has severely contaminated the nation's food and water supply.
Scientists warn that the chemical, known as perchlorate, could cause thyroid deficiency in more than 2.2 million women of childbearing age.
This thyroid deficiency could damage the fetus of pregnant women, if left untreated. Perchlorate, the explosive ingredient in solid rocket fuel, has leaked from military bases and defense and aerospace contractors' plants in at least 22 states, contaminating drinking water for millions of Americans.
Despite massive complaints, defense contractors such as Kerr-McGee have done little or nothing to clean up the pollution. Perchlorate has also been widely detected in milk, lettuce, produce and other foods. In an alarming study, the CDC found perchlorate in the urine of every person tested. The OCA has mobilized thousands of organic consumers to pressure the EPA and government officials to begin a massive clean up of perchlorate for over a year.
Background: The Environmental Working Groups new report is an anlaysis of data originally released in 2005, when the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released its long anticipated report on the human health effects of perchlorates, a byproduct of rocket fuel. Perchlorates, which are a common pollutant near military sites, have recently been found in the water at concerning levels in 22 states as well as in 93% of lettuce and milk. 97% of breast milk samples taken randomly from around the U.S. have tested positive for perchlorates.
The government funded NAS report reveals that perchlorates are roughly ten times more toxic to humans than the Department of Defense has been claiming. Perchlorates can inhibit thyroid function, cause birth defects and lower IQs, and are considered particularly dangerous to children.
The NAS report recommends human exposure at no more than .0007 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. The EPA has responded to the report by announcing a new drinking water standard of 24.5 ppb for perchlorate. This is bad news for military sites and rocket fuel plants around the country. There are over 12,000 military sites in the U.S. that are used for training with live explosives.
The Pentagon is urging Congress to pass a new law that would allow the military to freely violate a host of environmental regulations. Entitled "The Readiness and Range Preservation Initiative," the legislation would allow military facilities to ignore laws like the Clean Air Act. The Pentagon claims environmental regulations are a threat to national security, since they restrict the military.
What is perchlorate:
Perchlorate is an oxidizing anion that originates as a contaminant in ground and surface waters from the dissolution of ammonium, potassium, magnesium, or sodium salts. Perchlorate is exceedingly mobile in aqueous systems and can persist for many decades under typical ground and surface water conditions. Ammonium perchlorate is manufactured for use as the oxidizer component and primary ingredient in solid propellant for rockets, missiles, and fireworks. Because it is a reducing agent, it can undergo a variety of intramolecular redox reactions that lead to the release of gaseous products. Through such reactions, it acts as a thrust booster. Perchlorate salts are also used on a large scale as a component of air bag inflators. Perchlorate salts are also used in nuclear reactors and electronic tubes, as additives in lubricating oils, in tanning and finishing leather, as a mordant for fabrics and dyes, in electroplating, in aluminum refining, and in rubber manufacture, as a mordant for fabrics and dyes, and in the production of paints and enamels. Chemical fertilizer had been reported to be a potential source of perchlorate contamination, but new investigations by the EPA have determined that this is not an issue for agricultural applications. Large-scale production of perchlorate-containing chemicals in the United States began in the mid-1940s.
This article adapted from the newsletter of the Organic Consumers Association.
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