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Organic Consumers Association

Rocket-fuel Found in Prenatal Vitamins

It's in milk, lettuce, breast milk and now, prenatal vitamins? Perchlorate, a component of rocket fuel, is seemingly everywhere. And an article to be published in the journal Analytica Chimica Acta reports it is in dietary supplements—including several prenatal and children's vitamins.

Researchers at the Water Quality Research and Development Department of the Southern Nevada Water Authority found perchlorate in 20 of the 31 supplements tested. How the perchlorate was formed was not addressed, and brand names of the tested supplements were not released.

Perchlorates are used in explosives, air-bag inflation systems, lubricating oils, nuclear reactors and processes such as rubber manufacturing. Scientists also say that perchlorate is made naturally in the environment.

Anthony Almada, founder and chief scientific officer of Laguna Nigel, Calif.-based ImagiNutrition, said the findings are not surprising but bring up other questions. "Why was this study done? How do these findings relate to consumers' health concerns? What is the appropriate scientific context?"

He noted that funding for the project was provided in part by Intertox Inc., a health science consulting and research firm, which "has been consulting for the perchlorate study group, which is an industry group of consumers and producers of perchlorate.

"Of course, they have a certain agenda, and that agenda is to minimize the economic impact of perchlorate policy on the people that use it or make it." He said that deflecting interest away from water, foods and milk, and onto dietary supplements—which have been "a crucifixion substrate for media"—was their goal. Further, "a prenatal vitamin pushes the emotional hot button of babies, mothers and pregnancy. To me that's the context that's important to bear in mind."

The scientific context and consumer concerns are one and the same. According to the Texas Department of Health, Environmental Epidemiology and Toxicology Division, "Perchlorate competitively inhibits the uptake of iodide by the thyroid gland, potentially affecting thyroid function." Research has found that an adequate iodine intake may negate the potential effects of perchlorate.

In fact, 21 of the 31 supplements tested contained iodine. "Perchlorate, you pee it out. It either goes in the thyroid gland or you pee it out. It doesn't really store in tissue," Almada said. "Most [of the supplements tested] have something there that's an essential nutrient that completely blocks the effects and takes away the potential downside of perchlorate."

"This is not a supplement issue, it's an oral consumption issue. If you eat and drink, perchlorate may be an issue," Almada said. His advice: "To make it a nonissue, focus on adequate and prudent iodine nutrition and thyroid health."

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVII/number 5/p. 12

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