Rocket Fuel in My Water?!

By Megan Vick

That’s right.  You may have heard about it on the news or seen it online- 26 states have found perchlorate (rocket fuel) in their public water supply. Now the EPA is investigating setting a standard for allowable levels of this chemical in the water supply.

What is Perchlorate?
Perchlorate is derived from perchloric acid and can be both natural and artificial. The most common perchlorate is ammonium perchlorate which is used in pyrotechnics, as well as a component of rocket fuel. Perchlorate can cause numerous health problems both in children and adults.

Rocket

Rocket Launch

Is Perchlorate in Other Things?
Undoubtedly!  Sadly, because it has been found in the water supply, it has been found in many foods.  Rocket fuel has been documented in as much as 93% of samples of both milk and lettuce and as much as 32% of organic produce.  In one FDA study, 97% of mothers tested had perchlorate in their breast milk!  Unfortunately, this seems to be an unavoidable toxin.  Because plants are often irrigated with perchlorate-polluted water the concentration found in produce may be found in higher concentrations than in drinking water.

What Does Perchlorate Do to People?
Perchlorate has been directly linked to hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). Because perchlorate limits iodide absorption, it was used in the 1950s to treat hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). It has been suggested by the CDC that those individuals with hypothyroidism may be even more at risk. Any additional exposure to perchlorate may be enough to cause significant and substantial changes in thyroid hormones. These changes in hormones could lead to a host of medical disruptions and problems-including weight gain, fatigue, and depression-over a lifetime.

Can You Protect Yourself?
Perchlorate is a unique problem to have in the water. It’s not something water quality tests typically test for, so you may not know if you have it in your water. California and Texas have the highest instances of Water test
rocket fueled water; however it’s likely to be in the water near rocket testing or manufacturing facilities, military bases, and chemical plants. The only surefire way to remove rocket fuel from the water is to drink 100% pure water—either distilled water from the store, or through a system (reverse osmosis or distillation) installed in your home.

The Future
Luckily, there have already been major strides to reduce perchlorate in water supplies. The EPA is in the process of setting allowable levels of perchlorate in drinking water. Ideally this will create new ideas and technologies to remove perchlorate from the water supply to better protect people. However, it may take the EPA two years (or longer) to set an allowable level, and who knows how long it may take to develop a common and price-effective method of removing it from water.

 

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