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Published on Apr 21, 2016
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), perchlorate is a chemical used in items such as rocket fuel, fireworks, road flares and explosives. It also forms naturally in the environment in small amounts.
Perchlorate is highly soluble in water so it can enter surface and ground waters where it can last a long time in the environment. Extensive groundwater plumes of the chemical have occurred.
The CDC states that human health effects from perchlorate at low environmental exposures are unknown. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that short-term exposure to high doses may cause eye and skin irritation, coughing, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The agency also reports that the thyroid gland is the primary target of perchlorate toxicity in humans, disrupting the functions of the thyroid and potentially leading to a reduction in the production of thyroid hormones.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, people can be exposed to perchlorate by ingesting contaminated food or water, breathing contaminated dust or touching contaminated soil. The primary pathways for human exposure include ingestion of contaminated food and drinking water. Foods, such as certain plants with high water content (e.g., lettuce) can contain elevated levels of the chemical if those plants have taken up water containing perchlorate. Even cows may eat food containing perchlorate and pass it on in their milk if they graze in contaminated areas.
Workers who manufacture perchlorate-containing products can also be exposed to greater amounts of perchlorate than the general population.
As of October 2009, perchlorate had been detected at varying levels in drinking water, groundwater, surface water, soil or sediment at private and federal facilities in 45 states, three U.S. territories and Washington D.C.
These are just a few things to know about perchlorate and potential exposure concerns. To learn more about this or other environmental, occupational, health, safety, air quality or property issues, please visit the websites shown below.