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Traces of a chemical used in rocket fuel were found in samples of powdered baby formula, and could exceed what's considered a safe dose for adults if mixed with water also contaminated with the ingredient, a government study has found.
Perchlorate in drinking water is a health concern because it alters the production of thyroid hormones by the body, chemicals that are essential for proper development of the fetus and for normal metabolic functioning of the body. Particularly at risk are people with thyroid conditions, as well as pregnant women and their fetuses. Thyroid dysfunction characterized by hypothyroidism (reduced function of the thyroid gland) can result or be aggravated in persons who already have low thyroid function from consuming perchlorate in drinking water. Fetal and infant development can be retarded by exposure to perchlorate including that contained in breast milk from a mother who is consuming drinking water containing perchlorate.
The source of perchlorate of drinking water at many sites, including many of those in California, is the defense industry and the past production of solid rocket propellants using perchlorate. Poor disposal practices, industrial accidents, and agricultural fertilizers are suspected as the sources of contamination of drinking water by perchlorate. Perchlorate has been detected in the public drinking water in at least 22 states. Produce grown in those states that is irrigated by contaminated water has reached around the nation.
On January 10, a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) panel released a report evaluating the potential health threats posed by perchlorate, a toxic rocket fuel ingredient. Documents obtained from a series of Freedom of Information Act requests and lawsuits against the White House, Department of Defense and the Environmental Protection Agency indicate that the panel was subjected to massive pressure to downplay the hazards of the chemical. This behind-the-scenes campaign included extraordinary involvement by White House and DOD staff to limit the scope of the NAS panel's inquiry and select the panelists, and collaboration among the White House, Pentagon and defense contractors to influence the panel.