News Release

High Levels of Rocket Fuel Found in Breast Milk

Public Health Advocates Call For Immediate Cleanup of Contamination
For Immediate Release

Mother’s milk should be the healthiest food for babies.

A Texas Tech study published today, however, found the toxic rocket fuel chemical perchlorate in all thirty-six samples of breast milk taken from nursing mothers in eighteen states. According to study authors, the levels measured would expose infants to concentrations of perchlorate higher than recommended as safe by the National Academy of Sciences and the states of Massachusetts, Maryland and New Mexico.

It should go without saying that Americans deserve to drinking water free of rocket fuel. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should immediately consider the study findings and set a strong drinking water standard that will ensure full cleanup of perchlorate contamination. Such a standard should prevent rocket fuel from contaminating the bodies of nursing mothers, protect babies and hold polluters accountable for cleanup.

The study, authored by researchers at the Texas Tech University Institute of Environmental and Human Health and published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, found perchlorate in the breast milk of nursing woman at an average level of 10.5 parts per billion and at a peak level of 92 parts per billion. When adjusted to protect infants, a scientific review conducted by the National Academy of Sciences suggests drinking water levels close to one part per billion are appropriate.

Perchlorate is the major component of rocket fuel and has been linked at concentrations as low as one part per billion to learning disabilities, decreased IQ and attention deficit disorder in children. Rocket fuel has leaked into the drinking water supplies of millions of Americans through unsafe disposal and storage methods practiced by the aerospace, defense, fireworks and road flare industries. For example, a leaking plant owned by Kerr McGee Inc. near Lake Mead has contaminated the Colorado River, the primary drinking water supply for Southern California.

The U.S. EPA should protect babies from rocket fuel by immediately setting a drinking water standard at one part per billion or less. In addition, responsible parties, including the Department of Defense, should be held fully liable for perchlorate cleanup.

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