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CA City Protects Infants from Rocket Fuel Contamination

Thursday, April 28, 2005
One California city is taking no chances on a toxic rocket fuel in its drinking water. Although neither the EPA nor the state has made a final decision on safe levels of perchlorate, the Associated Press reports that Rialto, a working-class Los Angeles suburb, is taking a zero-tolerance stance and shutting down all wells that have tested positive for the chemical.

Perchlorate may cause mental retardation, loss of hearing and speech, abnormal testicular development, and deficits in motor skills by disrupting the production of thyroid hormones in fetuses, infants, and children.

Recently, the EPA announced a preliminary reference dose for perchlorate in drinking water -- enforceable federal standards are years away -- of 24.5 parts per billion. But California has adopted a public health goal of 6 ppb,
while Massachusetts' proposed standard is just 1 ppb. EWG, which has been investigating perchlorate since 1999, says to fully protect fetuses and kids, the standard should be no higher than 0.1 ppb. (View EWG Report on Perchlorate)

City officials in Rialto followed the precautionary principle by shutting down wells even when perchlorate levels did not exceed the EPA's preliminary RfD or the California public health goal. Other cities and towns in the 36
states with rocket fuel in their water should look to Rialto as a model for how municipalities can protect their citizens even in the absence of state or federal regulations.