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Frequently Asked Questions

CDC Scientists Find Rocket Fuel Chemical In Infant Formula: Frequently Asked Questions

April 2, 2009

1. How can I tell if my formula is contaminated with perchlorate?

The CDC scientists did not identify the formula brands they tested. But we do know that their research only included powdered infant formula. If you are feeding your baby powdered formula, we recommend that you contact your manufacturer to determine its full contents. You'll find a list of manufacturers and their phone numbers on our Take Action page, along with a form where you can let us know what they said.

2. I live in a state with perchlorate contaminated drinking water; how can I remove it from my drinking water?

Even if you live in a state in which perchlorate has been found, your specific municipal water supply may not be contaminated. We recommend that you call your water company and ask them if they have tested for perchlorate. If they have, and perchlorate has been found in your tap water, we recommend water filtration. At this point, a reverse osmosis filter that specifically removes perchlorate is your best option. FDA testing of bottled water found contamination in 2 of 51 samples so bottled water may not be safe either; in addition, EWG testing of 10 major bottled water brands found 38 pollutants.

3. How does the EPA explain its failure to regulate perchlorate?

EPA relies heavily on outdated research to justify its decision not to regulate perchlorate. In the last three years, the CDC has published two landmark studies that provide strong evidence that EPA should regulate perchlorate. In the first study, the CDC researchers found perchlorate in the urine of almost 3,000 Americans tested, indicating widespread exposure among the U.S. population. In the second study, CDC scientists found that perchlorate exposures far below EPA’s “safe” level were associated with significant thyroid hormone changes in women.

EWG has repeatedly called on EPA to consider this new research when deciding to regulate perchlorate in tap water.

4. I'm pregnant and live in a state with contaminated drinking water. What steps should I take to reduce my exposure?

Call your local water provider and ask if perchlorate has been found in your local tap water supply. If so, EWG recommends that you install a reverse osmosis water filtration system that specifically removes perchlorate.

5. How does the perchlorate get into the powdered cow's milk formula?

As its name implies, cow’s milk based powdered formula is made from cow’s milk, which is known to be widely contaminated with perchlorate. It is currently thought that perchlorate contaminates cow’s milk because cows may drink water and eat foods that are contaminated and the perchlorate then ends up in their milk.

6. I live in a state with perchlorate contaminated drinking water; is it better to use liquid formula instead of powdered?

Liquid formula has its own issues, including possible contamination with BPA, a synthetic estrogen linked to a host of adverse health effects including breast and prostate cancer, infertility, obesity, and behavioral problems in lab studies. At this point, EWG recommends continuing to use powdered formula reconstituted with perchlorate-free water. Please check with your pediatrician before making any changes in the formula you feed your baby.

7. If perchlorate is in powdered infant formula made from contaminated cow's milk, what other food sources - including cow's milk - might contain perchlorate?

The FDA has done testing of almost 300 commonly consumed foods and found perchlorate in almost three quarters of the foods they tested. You can read EWG’s analysis of the FDA study on our web site.

8. Is there any research about perchlorate in other types infant formulas (e.g., soy, liquid)?

This CDC study tested soy based and elemental powdered formula and found perchlorate in these types of formulas also, but at lower concentrations than in the cow’s milk based formula.