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Perchlorate in drinking water doesn’t need US federal limits, EPA says

by Cheryl Hogue
June 19, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 24


Drawing shows chemical structure of perchlorate.
Credit: Shutterstock
Chemical structure of perchlorate

The US does not need a federal limit for perchlorate in drinking water, the Environmental Protection Agency announced June 18. The move delivers a win to the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and NASA, whose operations have contaminated aquifers with perchlorate and who have vigorously opposed EPA regulation of the chemical. Perchlorate, which is a component of rocket fuel and used in vehicle airbags and fireworks, inhibits the uptake of iodine by the thyroid. It can lead to abnormal brain development in the fetuses of iodine-deficient women exposed to the substance, according to the National Research Council. The EPA says perchlorate levels in drinking water nationwide have fallen in the last decade or so because of drinking water limits on the compound set in California and Massachusetts, and cleanup of perchlorate contamination from groundwater in Nevada that tainted the lower Colorado River. The environmental group National Resources Defense Council, which sued the agency to set a perchlorate limit, says in a statement that the EPA’s decision not to regulate “defied a court-ordered consent decree requiring the agency to issue a drinking water standard.”


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