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|Sun, 10-05-2003 - 6:49pm|
1. Rocket Fuel in Drinking Water
2. Rocket Fuel in Winter Lettuce
3. Perchlorate and the Toxic Legacy
of the Cold War
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 19, 2003
CONTACT: Bill Walker or Renee Sharp, Environmental Working Group
(510) 444-0973 or (510) 444-0974
Dr. Purnendu K. Dasgupta, Texas Tech University
TOXIC ROCKET FUEL FOUND IN MILK SAMPLES FROM TEXAS SUPERMARKETS
LUBBOCK, TX, Sept. 19 - A toxic component of rocket fuel has been found in
supermarket milk at levels exceeding the federal government's currently
recommended safe dose for drinking water, according to a peer-reviewed
scientific study published today.
A team of five researchers from the Institute of Environmental and Human
Health at Texas Tech University report in the journal Environmental Science
and Technology that perchlorate was "unambiguously detected" in seven of
seven cow's milk samples from Lubbock grocery stores.
Perchlorate levels in the milk ranged from 1.7 to 6.4 parts per billion -
all higher than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's most recent
proposed safety standard of 1 ppb. Enforceable federal standards are not
expected for at least five years, but the State of California has set 4 ppb
of perchlorate as the "action level" at which a public water supply should
be shut down.
Perchlorate, the explosive main ingredient of solid rocket and missile
fuel, can disrupt the thyroid gland's ability to make essential hormones.
For fetuses, infants and children, disruptions in thyroid hormone levels
can cause lowered IQ, mental retardation, loss of hearing and speech, and
motor skill deficits.
Perchlorate, most of it leaking from military bases or defense plants,
contaminates more than 500 drinking water supplies in at least 20 states,
serving well over 20 million people. Among major perchlorate-polluted
sources is the Colorado River, which is used to irrigate 1.4 million acres
of cropland in California and Arizona. Earlier this year, a study for the
Environmental Working Group, conducted by the same team from Texas Tech,
reported that about 1 in 5 samples tested of winter lettuce irrigated by
the Colorado had perchlorate levels averaging four times the EPA's draft
safety standard. (www.ewg.org/suspectsalads.pdf.)
"These troubling results are the first indication that perchlorate is not
only contaminating drinking water and irrigation water, but that livestock
can pass it on to humans," said EWG Senior Analyst Renee Sharp. "How much
more evidence do we need before the government takes action to protect our
water, our food and our selves from this toxic chemical?"
The milk samples represented six different brands, four packaged locally at
the same plant and two at separate plants outside Texas. Researchers also
found perchlorate in one sample of evaporated cow's milk (1 ppb) and one
sample of human breast milk (about 4 ppb), but none was found in a sample
of reconstituted powdered milk.
Levels of perchlorate in Lubbock-area drinking water range from below the
limit of detection to 4 ppb, with the average about 2.5 ppb. Previous
research by the Texas Tech scientists has shown that feed crops such as
alfalfa can take up and concentrate perchlorate to high levels. The
researchers have also documented perchlorate contamination of field-grown
wheat, blackberries, chinaberries, mulberries and in lab-grown lettuce,
soybeans, strawberries and cucumbers.
"The significant occurrence of perchlorate in all milk samples analyzed at
levels that are comparable or even greater than the current California
action level for the concentration of perchlorate in drinking water came as
a considerable surprise to us," wrote the authors. "Based on this limited
study, it is not clear how widespread perchlorate contamination of milk may
be, but clearly such a study is warranted."
EWG renews its call for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and
Department of Agriculture to fast-track a definitive study of perchlorate
contamination in the U.S. food supply, and make all results public. All
future drinking water standards, such as those currently under
consideration by California, must adequately reflect the potential for
exposure through food. Farmers and ranchers must be fully compensated for
lost profits and property values.
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