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CDC Study Shows Boston Area Infants Exposed to Dangerous Rocket Fuel Ingredient through Breast Milk

For Immediate Release: 
Thursday, March 29, 2007

WASHINGTON — An Environmental Working Group (EWG) analysis of recently published data from scientists at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Boston University (BU) shows that infants are being exposed to dangerous levels of the rocket fuel component perchlorate.

The CDC/BU study, which examined breast milk from 49 Boston area women, found that the average breast fed infant in this study is being exposed to more than double the dose of perchlorate that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers safe; highly exposed babies are ingesting up to 10 times this amount. Today, EWG called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take action and implement adequate nationwide standards for perchlorate.

"The levels of perchlorate found in breast milk in this study suggest a serious threat to the normal development and health of potentially all American infants. To protect public health, EPA must adopt a maximum contaminant level for perchlorate in drinking water based on the most recent science, including the 2006 CDC study and the Boston study," wrote Dr. Anila Jacob, MD, MPH and Richard Wiles, Executive Director of EWG in their letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson.

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. The chemical has also been found to contaminate dairy milk, produce, and many other foods and plants. In a related 2006 study, the CDC found perchlorate in the urine of every one of 2,820 people tested, suggesting that food is a key route of exposure in addition to drinking water. Boston's tap water is not known to be contaminated with perchlorate; the 49 women in this study were likely exposed through food.

Breast milk is by far the healthiest food for infants, and mothers should continue to breastfeed their babies. However, the perchlorate levels found in breast milk in this CDC/BU study are alarming.

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EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment. The group's research on this issue as well as the CDC/BU report and the letter to EPA are available online at http://ewg.org/issues/perchlorate/20070329/.