EPA Tests Find Rocket Fuel in Nation's Milk, Lettuce
Wednesday 01 December 2004
Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tests released this week have confirmed the presence of perchlorate - an explosive additive in solid rocket fuel - in almost every sample of lettuce and milk taken in a nationwide investigation. Perchlorate, leaking from military bases and defense contrator's facilities, is known to cause regional water pollution, resulting in serious health effects.
The FDA investigation found the toxic additive in 217 of 232 samples of lettuce and milk from 15 states, including areas not previously known for perchlorate contamination. According to the Environmental Protection Agency's perchlorate coordinator for the southwest and Pacific region, Kevin Mayer, the FDA results show that this regional pollution problem is now exposing people across the entire U.S. to the toxin. 
"This is surprising new evidence that rocket fuel is getting into the food supply in places we never would have suspected. It means that perchlorate exposure is not just a problem in areas where the drinking water is contaminated, but a concern for everyone, every time we visit the grocery store," Bill Walker, West coast vice president of Environmental Working Group (EWG) told BushGreenwatch.
Problems associated with perchlorate include impaired thyroid function, tumors, cancer, and decreased learning capacity and developmental problems - such as loss of hearing and speech - in children. 
BushGreenwatch reported last December on the stalling tactics of the Bush Administration and the Defense Department regarding a national standard for safe drinking water.  The EPA's preliminary risk assessment found that perchlorate should not exceed 1 part per billion (ppb) in drinking water for protecting developing fetuses, but industry and Defense Department scientists claim that as much as 200 ppb is safe for human consumption. 
The EPA's suggested safe level of 1 ppb is below levels found in several drinking water sources, including the Colorado River. Since perchlorate pollution stems largely from military sites, costs for clean-up would be the responsibility of the Defense Department.
"With these results, it's time for health officials, perchlorate polluters and food producers to stop stalling by saying we need more studies," said Renee Sharp, a senior analyst at EWG. "Rocket fuel is in our water, in vegetables, in milk. How much more evidence do we need?"
 "Chemical Problems Widen," Press-Enterprise, Nov. 30, 2004.
 Environmental Protection Agency fact sheet.
 BushGreenwatch, Dec. 11, 2004.
 Press-Enterprise, op. cit.