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Mary Shomon

White House Stops EPA From Regulating Perchlorate: Dangerous Levels of Rocket Fuel Chemical That Causes Thyroid Problems Will Remain in Water

By September 24, 2008

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According to a story in the Washington Post, "EPA Unlikely to Limit Perchlorate in Tap Water", the EPA is just about to announce a ruling that it will not set a drinking-water safety standard for perchlorate. Perchlorate is a by-product of rocket fuel production that has been shown to cause thyroid problems in pregnant women, infants and children.

The Washington Post story suggests that the move is a result of White House pressure.

A number of EPA scientists have for six years been working to get regulations in place regarding perchlorate, but the Pentagon and the White House have continually opposed regulation. According to the EPA, nearly 17 million Americans are exposed to unsafe levels of perchlorate -- independent researchers say the real number of people at risk is more like 20 to 40 million. To date, unsafe levels of perchlorate have been found in the water supplies of in 35 states, at levels high enough to negatively affect thyroid function and pose health risks for fetuses and babies. Perchlorate contamination is especially widespread in California and the Southwest, where it's contaminated groundwater, the Colorado River, and produce grown in the area and consumed around the U.S.

The Pentagon and Defense Department have consistently opposed perchlorate regulation because the primary organizations causing perchlorate contamination in the first place are military bases and rocket test sites. Cleanup of such sites -- which would be required by regulation -- would cost millions of dollars, and defense contractors are threatening to sue the Defense Department to help defray the costs, if cleanup is required.

Robert Zoeller, a professor at the University of Massachusetts who specializes in thyroid hormone and brain development, got an advance copy of the EPA proposal, and told the Washington Post:

They have distorted the science to such an extent that they can justify not regulating [the chemical]. Infants and children will continue to be damaged, and that damage is significant.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee chair Barbara Boxer of California spoke out about the likelihood that the EPA will not establish a perchlorate standard, telling the Washington Post:
Perchlorate has been a serious, persistent and widespread problem which threatens the health of our families, especially our children. For the Bush EPA to walk away from this problem and shrug off this danger is, in my view, unforgivable and immoral.
Note from Mary:

I could not agree more with Lenny Siegel, who directs the Center for Public Environmental Oversight in California. Siegel has said: "This is an unconscionable decision not based upon science or law but on concern that a more stringent standard could cost the government significantly."


More information on the EPA perchlorate proposal from The Environmental Working Group .

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September 26, 2008 at 7:46 am
(1) Joanne Cali says:

Since we cannot personally control (other than demand proper legislation through lobbying, etc.) the corruption in government and/or business – it seems that the safeguard to perchlorate is to use enough iodine in one’s diet, so that one’s body doesn’t absorb similar chemicals. Byron Richard’s Wellness Resource Center offers an iodine supplement, and Iodoral is another I know. Also, Km supplies potassium iodide.

September 26, 2008 at 11:10 am
(2) Kathleen says:

The gentleman’s name is actually Thomas Zoeller, and his work is thorough, careful, and brilliant. He is a wonderful man in person as well.

September 29, 2008 at 10:23 am
(3) anonymous for obvious reasons says:

The perchlorate story has left me wondering. I am hypothyroid. I used to work in rocket research. From what I can gather, perchlorate eventually leaches from the body and bones, so after some years it is impossible to detect past contamination. Can anyone confirm this, time lapse after which tests are useless, and tests required? Thanks.

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