EPA finally proposes a perchlorate standard, and it's way too high

solid boosters on Delta rocket
CC BY 2.0 Perchlorate is the oxidizer for solid-fuelled rocket boosters like the Delta II/ Wikipedia

The chemical is used in rockets and munitions. Priorities!

After many years of study, the Environmental Protection Agency has finally come up with a proposed standard for allowable levels of perchlorate, a chemical used in solid propellants for rockets and fireworks – 56 Parts Per Billion (PPB) in drinking water. I noted in an earlier post that back in the '90s when they first started looking at the issue of perchlorate in water,

They did a study to find the minimum concentration that would affect baby rats and they never found it- at the lowest dose tested they still found changes in brain and thyroid development. They proposed a standard (one part per billion in drinking water) and the Pentagon opposed it and complained to the White House, which told the EPA to back off, and sent it off to the National Research Council, where a panel of scientists came up with a level of 24 PPB in drinking water.

The arms industry thought even that was too strict, and everyone has been arguing about it ever since. Meanwhile, some states came up with their own standards, with Massachusetts allowing 2 PPB and California, 6 PBB. Many think the new standard is ridiculously high. Erik Olson of the Natural Resources Defense Council says:

This is enough to make you sick—literally. As a result, millions of Americans will be at risk of exposure to dangerous levels of this toxic chemical in their drinking water. Fetuses and infants are especially vulnerable to harm from perchlorate. EPA has more than tripled the amount of perchlorate it now recommends allowing in water. Scientists recommend a limit that is 10 to more than 50 times lower than what the agency is proposing. This is another Trump administration gift to polluters and water utilities that have lobbied to be off the hook for cleaning up the problem.

Olga Naidenko, senior science adviser for children’s environmental health at the Environmental Working Group, was not very happy either:

The science on perchlorate is very clear: It harms infants and the developing fetus. Perchlorate can cause irreparable damage to both cognitive and physical development. Instead of taking action to lower the levels of this rocket fuel chemical in drinking water, the administration’s plan will endanger the health of future generations of kids.

Professor Barbara Demeneix of the Sorbonne makes the perchlorate connection to IQ and other health problems.

Perchlorate is a problem for human health because it interferes with production of thyroid hormone, something we all need. The condition of not having enough is called hypothyroidism, and can cause us to become tired, depressed and overweight. So essential is thyroid hormone that some doctors have referred to it as the “fire of life”. The importance of thyroid hormone for pregnant women and young children cannot be understated: The lack of either iodine or thyroid hormone during early development, especially the foetal and perinatal periods, results in lower IQ as well as an increased risk of neurodevelopmental disease such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (AD/HD).

In Canada the government doesn't regulate perchlorate because the levels are almost too low to measure. But it is different in the USA, because it is "an oxidizer in rocket propellants, munitions, fireworks, explosives, airbag initiators for vehicles, matches, and signal flares." According to the Envirowiki,

"Perchlorate has been detected at Department of Defense (DOD), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and defense industry sites involved in the manufacture, testing, and disposal of ammunition and solid rocket fuel. In addition, the disposal of munitions in burial pits, open burning and open detonation also resulted in releases."

So if you are going to have a military-industrial complex and solid fuel boosters on rockets, you are going to have perchlorate in your water. Big fireworks displays don't help either, but we know what happens every time we discuss that issue.

EPA finally proposes a perchlorate standard, and it's way too high
The chemical is used in rockets and munitions. Priorities!

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