UCI center finds perchlorate may be acceptable in drinking water at higher levels

Irvine, Calif., June 8, 2004 -- Even at significantly higher levels than recommended by the state's leading health assessment agency, the contaminant perchlorate in drinking water seems to pose no additional risks to healthy people, according to a recent report issued by the UC Irvine Urban Water Research Center.

The center reached this conclusion following a broad review of existing research on the rocket fuel manufacturing byproduct. Produced by an independent committee of scholars, the center's report is being provided to the California Department of Health Services and other policymakers as they wrestle with setting a statewide standard for perchlorate in drinking water.

The committee viewed the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment's current public health goal of 6 parts per billion as well reasoned and in keeping with a value set only on health considerations. Its findings, however, show that exposure to perchlorate at levels below 100 parts per billion would still protect the public health.

Perchlorate a byproduct of rocket fuel manufacturing that was discharged as waste into groundwater supplies from defense sites is a chemical that interferes with the normal function of the thyroid gland. In adults and children, the thyroid helps regulate metabolism. In children, it also plays a major role in proper development. Impaired thyroid function in expectant mothers may affect the fetus and newborn. Treatment of rats with other chemicals that result in chronic lowering of thyroid hormones has been shown to produce thyroid gland tumors.

"Clearly more research should be conducted related to exposure to perchlorate, particularly with pregnant women and other susceptible individuals," said committee member Ronald Shank, a UCI professor and chair of community and environmental medicine. "But we found no evidence in the current studies that demonstrate a difference in health effects in healthy individuals between low leve

Contact: Lori Brandt
University of California - Irvine

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