By Joanne Waldron | According to a report by the Organic Consumers Association, a toxic chemical that is a byproduct of rocket fuel is rapidly poisoning the food and water supply in the United States. Known as perchlorate, this chemical has been found in 93% of the nation’s milk and lettuce supply in a recent FDA study. It has also been found in the drinking water for at least 22 states at extremely alarming levels. Perhaps the scariest statistic is that perchlorate has been found in the breast milk of 97% of the mothers who were tested.
What are Americans supposed to eat?
Unfortunately, lettuce and milk weren’t the only foods that were found to be contaminated. Perchlorate was found in tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, spinach, citrus, melons and more. Sadly, even organic vegetables were affected, because most crops are irrigated from polluted water sources. In a Wired.com article by Amit Asaravala, Bill Walker, the vice president of the Environmental Working Group’s West Coast operations, was quoted as saying, “The study confirms what we and some other people have been saying for a while — that perchlorate is not only a problem in areas with known water contamination but for anyone who eats food grown in the U.S.”
A report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) warns that ingesting lettuce or any other vegetable that is grown anywhere irrigated by the Colorado River would result in an exposure to an unsafe level of perchlorate per standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Farms that use this water for irrigation are responsible for growing almost all of the lettuce sold in the United States during the winter months. The EWG also reports that if a pregnant woman were to eat an ordinary serving of vegetables with the contamination levels that were found at Lucky Farms, a San Bernardino grower of lettuce and other vegetables, she would get a dose of rocket fuel over 100 times greater than what the EPA would consider “safe” for a liter of drinking water. Wow! Health-conscious consumers who eat a plant-based diet consisting of lots of dark, leafy greens, fruits and vegetables could actually be harming their health by consuming toxic levels of perchlorate.
According to a website by Laura Power, MS, PhD, LDN, perchlorate is a toxin that interferes with thyroid function by supplanting iodine in the body, causing harm to iodine transporters. This can be responsible for numerous health problems, notes Dr. Power, including “hypothyroidism, thyroid cancer, goiter, breast disease, disruption of the menstrual cycle, immune system dysfunction, poor fetal development, and mental retardation of newborns.” A book by Mary J. Shomon, Living Well with Hypothyroidism: What Your Doctor Doesn’t Tell You… That You Need to Know (Revised Edition), reports that in areas with the greatest amount of perchlorate contamination, rates of congenital hypothyroidism are much higher than normal which means that pregnant mothers need to be particularly concerned about this.
To illustrate the severity of the problem, a CDC study demonstrated that in the 36% of women in the U.S. with low iodine intake, just about any exposure to perchlorate at all was associated with a substantial change in levels of thyroid hormone. That’s over one in three women. Moreover, the Organic Consumers Association reports that for every one out of ten of these women, if they were exposed to as little as 5 ppb of perchlorate in drinking water, the subsequent hormone disruption would require treatment during pregnancy for sub-clinical hypothyroidism.
Fatigued, Depressed, and Overweight?
If a woman is overly fatigued, depressed or overweight, she may be suffering from hypothyroidism caused by perchlorate contamination. According to Dr. Power, there are many other symptoms of hypothyroidism such as brittle nails, poor memory, constipation, menstrual irregularities, high cholesterol, poor concentration, irritability, dry skin, dry hair, hair loss and more. Imagine how frustrating it might be for a woman who is drinking lots of water and eating lots of healthy salads but isn’t making any progress losing weight due to thyroid disease caused by perchlorate ingestion. Clearly, anyone who has the above symptoms should consult a qualified health care provider immediately.
Check the Water Supply
One thing everyone can do is to check their water supplies. A map provided by the EPA shows the location of all of the perchlorate releases as of April 2003. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) also provides a table of where top soil or ground water is contaminated by perchlorate and a table that shows sites of known perchlorate use in 36 states. As previously noted, many who live near the Colorado River are affected (about 20 million people).
Install a Water Filter
Those who live in areas that have been contaminated should definitely install a water filter capable of removing perchlorate, probably some type of reverse osmosis filter. These filters won’t remove all of the perchlorate, but it is best to reduce the amount of perchlorate to the extent possible. Reverse osmosis filters won’t remove things like radon from the water and are probably best combined with a carbon filter. Needless to say, those with children attending schools that use water contaminated with perchlorate should take action to demand that the schools install proper filters, too, as drinking perchlorate-contaminated water could cause developmental delays in children, according to Dr. Power.
Get Sufficient Iodine
Unfortunately, there is no way to remove perchlorate from contaminated vegetables, and buying organic produce doesn’t help when it comes to perchlorate. One can try to purchase vegetables that aren’t grown in areas that use contaminated water to irrigate crops, but this probably won’t be possible for the majority of people. Obviously, people can’t stop eating. However, it is absolutely essential to ensure that one’s diet has a sufficient amount of iodine to attempt to compensate for any perchlorate ingestion. Some people may wish to supplement with kelp or eat more sea vegetables, but it is best to discuss the proper dosage of any supplements with a qualified healthcare provider.
Write and Complain
Finally, one more thing that can be done is to write to lawmakers and demand that the people who are polluting the environment with perchlorate clean it up now. A number of people in some communities in California that have water that has been poisoned by perchlorate are being charged 15% surcharges to clean up the mess made by polluters, reports The Gilroy Dispatch. This is so wrong. According to Senator Feinstein from California, “Nearly all perchlorate has been produced by the Department of Defense and its contractors and in the country’s space programs.” Maybe everyone should write to NASA and The Department of Defense and complain, too.
The EPA has not established a maximum legal limit in tap water for perchlorate, according to a database maintained by the EWG. This is outrageous —- there are millions of people in the United States drinking water that has been contaminated with this toxin. Since perchlorate is currently unregulated in tap water, there are no violations recorded in the EPA’s violations database, ironically labeled the “Safe Drinking Water Information System.” Meanwhile, under the current federal tap water law, any level of perchlorate is legal! That’s right. Water suppliers are not even required to test for perchlorate. Given the health implications of perchlorate ingestion, the stupidity of this kind of lack of regulation is just incredible. Write to the EPA, and let them know that this lack of regulation is just insanity.
A Wake-up Call
When people have to be concerned with drinking a glass of water or eating a salad, there is a problem. The FDA reports that the inhibition of iodine uptake by perchlorate is a “precursor that can lead to hypothyroidism,” and pregnant women and their fetuses are “the most sensitive populations to the health effects of perchlorate.” How bad will the situation have to get before environmental regulators will no longer be able to ignore the mass poisoning of the nation’s food and water supply?
Contact The Environmental Protection Agency:
Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water (4601)
Ariel Rios Building
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460-0003
Phone and Fax:
Fax: 202-564-3753 (Director’s office)
Fax: 202-564-3751 (Drinking Water Protection Division)
Fax: 202-564-3752 (Standards and Risk Management Division)
or e-mail the Director, Cynthia Dougherty @ Dougherty.Cynthia@epa.gov
Contact the FDA:
Food and Drug Administration
5600 Fishers Lane
Rockville, Maryland 20857
or by telephone:
1-888-INFO-FDA (1-888-463-6332) — main FDA Phone Number (for general inquiries)
Contact local, state and federal officials – just enter zip code:
Contact the Department of Defense:
or +1 (703) 428-0711 +1
Public Communications Office
Washington, DC 20546-0001
(202) 358-0001 (Office)
(202) 358-3469 (Fax)