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A new perchlorate-level predicament

Environment: Corporations that produce the toxic byproduct argue against new study

Posted: April 5, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 5, 2011 1:55 a.m.
 

Corporations that make or use perchlorate are disputing the science behind a state study of the salt that says acceptable amounts in drinking water should be substantially reduced.

“There were fundamental flaws we found in the scientific conclusions that were reached,” said Bill Romanelli, spokesman for the corporate interests.

The group — calling itself the Perchlorate Study Group and representing a handful of aerospace and chemical corporations that make or use perchlorate — want the state study withdrawn and re-evaluated to focus on what it considers “reliable and widely accepted scientific information.”

The statement came in reaction to a study released in January by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. The study recommends that California re-set the limit for perchlorate in drinking water to 1 part per billion.

The current health safety limit — called a public health goal — calls for no more than 6 parts per billion of perchlorate in drinking water, which is six micrograms in a liter.

The state study is separate from yet another study, released by the Boston University School of Medicine in February, that found extremely low levels of perchlorate won’t adversely effect pregnant women or their unborn children.

Contamination
Perchlorate is a salt that is the byproduct of munitions manufacturing. It is known to disrupt the functioning of the thyroid gland in humans. It pollutes many brownfields across the United States where Department of Defense manufacturing occurred.

The Whittaker-Bermite site located in Saugus near the center of Santa Clarita is polluted with perchlorate both on the ground and in the groundwater beneath the site, which flows into the Santa Clara River.

The Whittaker-Bermite site is being cleaned up under the supervision of the state Department of Toxic Substances Control.

The state study that the Perchlorate Study Group objects to is a draft, and the group says scientists need better data before making their final recommendation. The group wants a peer review done.

Concerned corporations include: Lockheed Martin, Aerojet and the American Pacific Corp., which manufactures both water-treatment equipment and liquid propulsion systems, including thrusters.

These companies have worked “cooperatively” with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to increase scientific and medical understanding of perchlorate’s risk to human health, Romanelli said.

Neurological effects
A letter sent to the environmental health office in February said the corporate group: “Exposed serious scientific concerns with a California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment document proposing a new perchlorate public health goal.

“The group concludes that OEHHA should withdraw its proposal and reevaluate it with a focus on the most reliable and widely accepted scientific information.”

In humans, perchlorate stands in the way of iodide getting to the thyroid gland to produce hormones. Blocking this iodine “uptake” can potentially cause a drop in hormone production.

The thyroid hormone controls the body’s metabolic rate and is needed to metabolize protein, carbohydrates and fats.

Drops in production of the hormone, according to the environmental health office, could have serious neurological affects on young children.

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