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Jet Fuel Discovered in Baby Formula

Apr 3, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

The rocket fuel component, perchlorate, has been found in baby formulas, according to scientists from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Perchlorate has been linked to thyroid disease.

USA Today reported that a study of 15 powdered infant formulas revealed perchlorate contamination with cow’s milk formula and lactose-based formula containing higher levels than soy-based; lactose-free; and so-called “elemental” formulas, which contain synthetically manufactured amino acids for babies unable to digest other formulas.  According to a report in USA Today,  brand names of the baby formula tested were not released by the CDC.

Years ago, the military and missile makers dumped perchlorate into the ground where it has since spread into wells and rivers nationwide.  According to a prior SFGate piece, perchlorate contamination can be found in at least 35 states and 153 public water system.  Worse, pointed out the Boston Phoenix, also from a prior piece, the former Bush Administration blocked a multi-year Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) initiative to limit perchlorate in the nation’s drinking water.

Perchlorate is one of a group of toxins called endocrine disrupters, which can alter hormonal balances and impede human reproduction and development.  Although the EPA has said that based on laboratory and epidemiological studies, perchlorate is dangerous in drinking water at levels above one part per billion (ppb); at the national level, it had been looking into formally determining that setting a perchlorate standard in drinking water was unnecessary.  According to USA Today, the new administrator for the EPA—Lisa Jackson—has reportedly pledged to act quickly to address and reduce the toxin’s contamination in drinking water.

The baby formula studied was mixed with perchlorate-free water, according to the research, which was published in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology, last month.  The Associate Press (AP) pointed out that if the formula were to be mixed with perchlorate-contaminated water, babies would likely receive formula exceeding what is currently deemed to be safe levels of the poison; the study is receiving renewed attention due to an Environmental Working Group press release issued yesterday on the CDC study.  Study authors said infants should be fed a diet containing sufficient iodine, which is known to offset some of the toxin’s effects, reported USA Today.  The authors also called for a study to measure perchlorate levels in infants to determine exposure rates.

The EPA had long ignored the need to remove perchlorate from public water supplies; however, it has since announced it is reevaluating its original determination and has said that its initial report should have used a cumulative risk assessment for perchlorate, among other chemicals, and should have also looked at iodine in the American diet.  In other words, the EPA erred in its original reporting.

The AP reported that earlier this year, the EPA said it was considering setting new perchlorate limits for drinking water, with a few states setting their own limits.  Meanwhile, said the AP, the EPA analyzed 4,000 public water supplies, which serve in excess of 10,000 people each, and found that about 160 measured with detectable perchlorate levels and 31 measured with levels exceeding the new safety levels being looked at by the EPA.


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