For Immediate Release: 
Monday, March 3, 2003

Washington, DC — March 3, 2003 - U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today introduced legislation to protect drinking water from contamination by the toxic chemical perchlorate.

Boxer's bill would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish a standard for perchlorate contamination in drinking water supplies by July 1, 2004. Under EPA's current schedule, 2006 is the earliest date a standard would be finalized.

"Perchlorate is a clear and present danger to California's public health," said Boxer. "We can't wait four more years to address this threat. EPA needs to get moving and protect our drinking water sooner rather than later."

Drinking water sources for at least 7 million Californians and millions of other Americans are contaminated with perchlorate. Perchlorate is the main ingredient in missile and rocket fuel, which accounts for 90 percent of its use. Perchlorate is also used for ammunition, fireworks, highway safety flares, air bags, and fertilizers. It dissolves readily in many liquids, including water, and moves easily and quickly through cracks and water.

Perchlorate was first discovered in drinking water in 1957. The chemical has been demonstrated to pose a variety of serious health risks relating to thyroid function, especially in newborns, children, and pregnant women. Exposure to perchlorate interferes with the thyroid gland's ability to produce the hormones needed for normal prenatal development. This can cause both physical and mental retardation. Perchlorate is also linked to thyroid cancer.

Californians face special threats from perchlorate contamination because so many rockets and missiles were built and tested in the state during World War II and the Cold War. Groundwater can become contaminated wherever the chemical is manufactured, used, disposed of, or stored.

Alarming levels of perchlorate have been discovered in Lake Mead and the Colorado River, the drinking water source for millions of Southern Californians. Communities in the Inland Empire, San Gabriel Valley, Santa Clara Valley, and the Sacramento area are also grappling with perchlorate contamination.

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