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U.S. One-Year Olds Overexposed to Rocket Fuel Chemical

For Immediate Release: 
Thursday, October 25, 2007

 

WASHINGTON – One of every 16 one-year-old children in the U.S. is exposed to the rocket fuel chemical perchlorate at levels above the government’s safe dose, according to an Environmental Working Group analysis of food testing data from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  In communities where perchlorate contaminates tap water, thousands more children are at risk. 
 
Perchlorate contaminates tap water in 28 states, but to date, the government has failed to protect the children living there.  Instead, in April of this year, the Bush EPA indefinitely put off the development of a federal health standard for perchlorate in drinking water, at the behest of defense industry lobbyists. 
 
Perchlorate, the explosive ingredient in solid rocket fuel, can alter thyroid hormone levels that are critical to a child's healthy development. A landmark 2006 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found significant effects at perchlorate levels five times lower than EPA's current "safe" dose.
 
FDA food tests published last spring have allowed EWG to conduct this first-ever analysis of children's exposures to perchlorate from both food and tap water. EWG found at least 250,000 one-year-olds exposed to unsafe levels of perchlorate from food, every day.  Adding tap water exposures on top of that only increases the health risks these children face.
 
Perchlorate can occur naturally in the environment, but a portion of the contamination in milk, produce, and fruit juice comes from farm irrigation water polluted by massive rocket fuel contamination of the Colorado River from a defense industry contractor site near Las Vegas.
 
Rocket fuel contaminates not only common foods eaten by toddlers, but also tap water across the country. Government-mandated tests revealed rocket fuel contamination in the tap water of 28 states nationwide as of January, 2005 (GAO 2005). Despite widespread pollution, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has repeatedly declined to set a safety standard for rocket fuel in tap water, yielding to pressure from the defense industry.
 
“One and two year old children should not be exposed to rocket fuel chemicals at levels that are above the EPA safe dose,” said Anila Jacob, MD, Senior Scientist at EWG, “EPA’s foot dragging over tap water safety standards has potentially placed the development of hundreds of thousands of young children in jeopardy.”
 
This new report comes just days before a House Committee is scheduled to consider legislation that will finally force EPA to set a permanent safety standard for perchlorate in the nation’s drinking water.

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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 perchlorate is available online at www.ewg.org.